Komatsu launches plan to develop hydrogen-powered haul trucks
Komatsu will begin a program in 2021 that aims to develop hydrogen power for its heavy-duty mining haul trucks. Asia Nikkei reported the program will look to have the hydrogen power for its trucks ready for practical use by 2030.
Hydrogen power is already available in buses and road trucks and Komatsu extends to expand it to the mining industry as its customers seek to lower carbon dioxide emissions from mine sites around the world.
Some mining trucks run on electricity from overhead power lines, but most are diesel-powered. Using hydrogen as a fuel has the benefit of letting zero-emissions trucks travel on routes where power lines do not reach.
In terms of hydrogen power, the mining haul trucks present a different level of technical challenges than everyday fuel cell vehicles.
Costs pose another hurdle. Komatsu plans to procure fuel cells for its hydrogen-powered trucks from outside suppliers. Fuel cell stacks used in electricity generation are expensive. But mass production is expected to bring down their prices if they are used in a broader range of applications.
Mining equipment accounts for roughly 40 percent of Komatsu’s sales. The rival of U.S.-based Caterpillar and China's Sany has taken steps to make itself more competitive in this field, including its 2017 acquisition of American mining machinery maker Joy Global.
Industry players seek to cut CO2 emissions across their operations by eliminating fossil fuel use during extraction and generating electricity from renewable sources. This fits with a global trend toward reducing carbon emissions over a product’s lifetime, from resource extraction to disposal.
Some mining groups have unveiled plans for their own hydrogen infrastructure. Anglo American will install 320 megawatts of solar power generation capacity near a platinum mine in South Africa. This output will be used to produce up to 1 ton of hydrogen a day.
Komatsu has set a goal of halving CO2 emissions from its construction and mining equipment by fiscal 2030, compared with fiscal 2010 levels. In one initiative, the company has teamed with a U.S. maker of commercial electric vehicles to produce electrified heavy machinery, looking to begin mass production as early as 2023.