General Motors (GM) and Japanese construction equipment manufacturer Komatsu are venturing into the realm of heavy-duty mining trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
This innovative project aims to redefine the mining industry’s power sources, leveraging GM’s Hydrotec “energy cubes” – compact powerhouses comprised of 300 individual hydrogen fuel cells, each boasting an impressive 80 kW capacity.
Hydrogen fuel cells stand out as the technology driving this initiative. Compressed hydrogen serves as the fuel, offering an environmentally friendly alternative by producing only water vapor during combustion. While hydrogen fuel cells have been evolving for decades, GM’s recent strides signal a focused effort to create a new business segment centered around mobile power generation and heavy equipment fueled by hydrogen.
GM plans to deploy Hydrotec’s “energy cubes” across various systems, showcasing the versatility of this hydrogen-powered solution. From mobile generators to temporary electric vehicle chargers and vocational vehicles like heavy-duty mining trucks, terminal tractors, and concrete mixers, the potential applications are diverse.
Considering the substantial energy requirements of heavy-duty mining trucks, GM CEO Charles Freese emphasized the inefficiency of lithium-ion batteries for extreme towing or payload needs. The energy cubes, when combined into arrays, are projected to deliver “more than 2 megawatts of power” per truck, catering to the colossal power demands of trucks like the Komatsu model 930E mining dump truck, which weighs over 500 tons and develops a staggering 3,500 hp (2600 kW).
GM and Komatsu are set to embark on a two-year testing phase, deploying a prototype truck at a proving ground in Arizona. This critical testing period will determine the feasibility and efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells in the demanding mining environment. Positive results could pave the way for the mass production of serial mining dump trucks powered by this revolutionary technology.