LIMPOPO, South Africa: Weighing 220 tonnes, mining trucks guzzle fuel at an alarming rate, going through some 134 litres of diesel every hour they operate.
Mining companies are, therefore, focusing their attention on these vehicles as the first step to reducing their carbon footprints.
In a bid to reduce costs and find more efficient fuels, Anglo American, in collaboration with partners, is retrofitting a mining haul truck with hydrogen power technology.
A first of its kind, the monster mining vehicle will undergo trials in Limpopo, South Africa, at the company's Mogalakwena platinum mine.
Due to begin operating in early 2022, the truck will be a hybrid, with a hydrogen fuel cell providing roughly half of its power and a battery pack the other half.
Instead of having a tank of diesel that powers the motor, hydrogen enters the fuel cell and mixes with oxygen to create water in a chemical reaction catalyzed by platinum, which generates the electricity powering its motors.
As exhaust, it only emits water vapour, the company said, adding that it has the potential to reduce on-site diesel emissions by up to 80 percent.
By rolling out this technology across its global truck fleet, Anglo American said it would be "taking the equivalent of half a million diesel cars off the road."
Anglo is developing the hydropgen-powered truck, along with partners Engie, NPROXX, First Mode, Williams Advanced Engineering, Ballard, ABB, Nel and Plug Power.
However, according to Davide Sabbadin, senior policy officer for climate and circular economy at the European Environmental Bureau, the construction sector, which includes mining, accounted for 36 percent of global final energy use and 39 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2017, and will need to reduce its energy consumption by one-third to comply with the Paris Agreement.
"While electric-powered vehicles, generally speaking, are less damaging to the environment than internal combustion engines on a life cycle analysis, this does not mean that they are green," said Diego Marin, associate policy officer for environmental justice at the European Environmental Bureau, as quoted by the BBC.
Anglo American said that it is attempting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.
Its hydrogen-powered hauler uses green hydrogen, which is made by splitting water atoms into oxygen and hydrogen through electrolysis.
Jarrad Wright, an energy consultant and principal engineer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, noted "Hydrogen for power production is still quite expensive and unlikely to compete for some time," as reported by the BBC.
This is mainly due to a lack of supporting infrastructure for the new forms of energy to be created, distributed or stored.