The Innovative Vehicle Institute (IVI), Propulsion Québec and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), in collaboration with Adria Power Systems, Dana TM4, Fournier et fils, and Nouveau Monde Graphite, have announced the development of a new electric propulsion system with a rapid recharging infrastructure adapted to heavy vehicles in the open-pit mining industry. This project was made possible in part through the financial participation of Natural Resources Canada’s Clean Growth in Natural Resource Sectors Innovation program, the Ministry of Economy and Innovation’s Innov-R program (administered by InnovÉÉ), and a financial contribution from the Société du Plan Nord. It marks a major turning point in the electrification of heavy vehicles in North America.

The mining industry is in a full swing transition towards a low environmental impact mode of operation, and its key players are working to phase out diesel vehicles, which are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions and generate high operating costs. Currently, there are no electric-powered heavy-duty trucks on the market that meet the difficult operational and climate needs of open-pit mines. Faced with the industry’s new needs, IVI, Propulsion and the NRC brought together select partners to make the first-ever electric heavy-duty vehicle for the mining sector.

To ensure the success of this major project, Fournier et Fils, a recognized operator in the mining sector, will provide the project with a Western Star 6900XD truck with a 40-ton loading capacity, as well as its technical experts, who will assist the electrification experts in converting the truck to accommodate the new components. The motorization aspects will be developed by Dana TM4, a world leader in electric motors.

IVI will design the battery based on the new recommendations of the Global Mining Guidelines (GMG), and the NRC will evaluate and test it to ensure it meets the specific criteria of being inexpensive and adapted to the harsh conditions of open-pit mines. The objective is to minimize operating costs, and this electric mining vehicle will be able to operate year-round, even in winter. To efficiently meet the truck’s power requirements and charging times, a high-power charging infrastructure will be developed by Adria Power Systems, which will also be in charge of battery assembly.

It is interesting to note that the selected technological solution will stand out for its highly innovative nature and will be designed to be adaptable for other types of heavy mining vehicles.

In addition to being cost-effective and viable, the electric mining truck will generate highly positive environmental impacts for the mining industry and for Canada. For example, Nouveau Monde Graphite, one of the project’s mining partners, plans to use 12 electric trucks to save more than 80,000 liters of diesel per year, thus reducing its GHG emissions by more than 220 tons (according to preliminary estimates). The company, located in Saint-Michel-des-Saints, aspires to become the world’s first 100% electric open-pit mine.

The prototype is expected to make its first real-world test runs as early as spring 2022 at a Fournier et Fils quarry and at the Nouveau Monde Graphite site.

“We’re helping mining companies lower their emissions by investing in onsite emissions reduction technologies, and they’re helping us by powering the clean technologies we’ll need to reach net zero by 2050.” ─ The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources

“This project demonstrates Propulsion Québec’s strength in stimulating intercompany knowledge sharing to foster the emergence of clean technologies. Quebec is firmly committed to going electric, and the project announced today is perfectly in line with our desire to produce electric commercial vehicles. The fact that the prototype will be used in a graphite mine, a key element in the development of the battery sector, makes me all the more enthusiastic.” ─ Pierre Fitzgibbon, Minister of Economy and Innovation and Minister Responsible for the Lanaudière Region

“We are proud to support the development of this heavy electric vehicle which is highly promising for the sustainable development of the mining industry and fits perfectly with our plan to develop critical and strategic minerals. Our strategic vision for mining development aims, among other things, to prevent and mitigate its environmental impacts. There is no doubt that this collaborative project, supported by the Société du Plan Nord, will contribute to us reaching this objective. The active participation of the Quebec government in the development of green technologies for the mining industry already allows me to envision electric trucks operating in Quebec’s mines, which could completely revolutionize the industry.” ─ Jonatan Julien, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and Minister Responsible for the Côte-Nord Region

“To tackle climate challenges, we have to replace fossil fuels with our hydropower as much as we possibly can. I commend the partners in this project for their commitment to creating the first 100% electric heavy-duty vehicle designed for open-pit mining. We are proud to support this project, which is perfectly in line with our government’s vision of electrifying Quebec’s economy, particularly the transportation sector, with the twofold objective of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and stimulating our economy. We will follow the evolution of this project with great interest in order to promote sustainable mining development in Quebec!” ─ Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change and Minister Responsible for the Laval Region