After years of development, the world’s largest zero-emission vehicle was unveiled today at a South African platinum mine, with a hydrogen-fueled hybrid powerplant designed and built by Seattle-based First Mode.
Anglo American’s three-story-tall, 200-ton nuGen hybrid mining truck received a grand sendoff from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Mogalakwena open-pit platinum mine.
“It is a smart step for Anglo American, but a giant leap for South Africa’s hydrogen economy as we move into the future,” Ramaphosa said. “The hydrogen economy is beckoning us as a country and as an industry.”
Chris Voorhees, president and CEO of First Mode, said zero-emission industrial power will play a key role in addressing the global climate crisis. Large trucks currently account for 70% to 80% of diesel fuel consumption at Anglo American’s mines, but one nuGen truck is expected to keep the equivalent of carbon dioxide emissions from 700 cars out of the atmosphere.
“At First Mode, we know we are at a ‘fire-everything’ moment,” Voorhees said in a news release. “The urgency in front of us requires that we deploy every tool and every technology to battle climate change. I’m so proud of the team and our partnership with Anglo American, focused on decarbonization at the source to effect the meaningful, necessary change we all seek.”
According to statistics passed along by First Mode, the mining industry accounts for about 7% of global carbon dioxide missions, with diesel haul trucks representing as much as 50% of total energy use at mine sites.
Anglo American’s nuGen truck gets its fuel from a solar-powered hydrogen production plant in Mogalakwena. The 2-megawatt hybrid powerplant — developed by First Mode in partnership with Williams Advanced Engineering, Ballard, ENGIE and NPROXX — makes use of a hydrogen fuel cell system that delivers up to 800 kilowatts of power, plus a 1.2 megawatt-hour battery pack.
The converted Komatsu 930E truck is designed to haul up to 290 tons of ore. During today’s debut at the Mogalakwena platinum mine, it carried 150 tons of ore up a 7% incline and then dropped off its payload, International Mining reported.
Anglo American’s nuGen project is part of a clean-energy initiative called FutureSmart Mining, which aims to make the company’s mining operations carbon-neutral by 2040.
Eventually, 40 heavy-duty diesel trucks at the Mogalakwena open-pit site will be converted to hybrid hydrogen-battery power, and then the nuGen system will be rolled out to Anglo American’s global fleet of about 400 trucks.
Mining isn’t the only industry that’s benefiting from First Mode’s engineering services. The Seattle-based company — which also has an office in Perth, Australia — has been working on a hydrogen-fueled off-road racer and contributing to space efforts such as NASA’s Psyche mission to a metal-rich asteroid and the Perseverance rover mission on Mars.