General Motors and Komatsu collaborate on hydrogen fuel cell-powered mining truck

GENERAL Motors (GM) and Komatsu will co-develop a hydrogen fuel cell power module for Komatsu’s 930E electric drive mining truck.

Lightweight and quick to refuel, hydrogen fuel cells are described as ideal for electrifying applications traditionally powered by diesel engines. Komatsu said they also provide an ‘excellent’ zero tailpipe emissions solution for vehicles with extreme hauling requirements, like the manufacturer’s 930E mining truck, with its nominal payload of 320 tons.

These vehicles typically operate at a single mine throughout their life, which simplifies the challenges of sizing and deploying an effective hydrogen refuelling infrastructure to service the vehicle fleet.

Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s Hydrotec business, said, “At GM, we believe fuel cells can play an integral role in a zero-emissions future, helping to electrify heavier-duty applications, beyond passenger vehicles. Mining trucks are among the largest, most capable vehicles used in any industry, and we believe hydrogen fuel cells are best suited to deliver zero emissions propulsion to these demanding applications.”

Komatsu’s fuel cell-powered mining trucks will provide an additional pathway for decarbonisation beyond battery-trolley or battery-static charging solutions, without the need for additional charging infrastructure within mines.

The manufacturer has set a target of reducing its global emissions by 50% by 2030 and a challenge target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. GM’s target is to be fully carbon neutral in both products and operations by 2040.

Dan Funcannon, VP of North America engineering and development for Komatsu, added, “Finding new ways to power the equipment our customers need to do the vital work of mining and construction is a critical part of our commitment to supporting a more sustainable future. This is essential work that requires cross-industry collaboration, and we are excited to be working with GM on this important solution for a haulage offering without tailpipe emissions.”

GM and Komatsu intend to test the first prototype Hydrotec-powered mining vehicle in the mid-2020s at Komatsu’s Arizona Proving Grounds (AZPG) research and development facility. This vehicle will be powered by over two megawatts of Hydrotec power cubes.