Cover story: Landex electric truck

By: Randolph Covich, Photography by: Randolph Covich, Video by: Justin Bennett


The Ed travelled to Dunedin to take a closer look at what he understands is the first fully-electric truck to be put to daily work in a quarry

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The idea of using electricity to power a quarry truck goes back many years; in fact, Blackhead Quarries Ltd quarry manager Joe Hunter says technology has finally caught up with the original vision, after the recent arrival of a Landex-supplied XCMG fully-electric dump truck.

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Logan Point Quarry has been supplying aggregate since the 1800s

Located some two kilometres from Dunedin’s city centre and a stone’s throw from the Forsyth Barr Stadium is Blackhead’s Logan Point Quarry. One of a number of businesses operated under the company banner, the huge excavated quarry floor provides evidence at the amount of material the site has provided to construction work around Dunedin City from the late 1800s to the present day.

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From left: Joe Hunter, Tony Hunter, Ross Linton

Sixth-generation Joe is the latest incumbent in the quarry manager’s office and along with his father, Tony Hunter, has high hopes for their latest acquisition.

"You could say it began back in the day when we started moving product from the top of the hill down to stockpiles," Joe says.

"Back then, Dad could see that a huge amount of energy from braking was going to waste, as trucks descended the steep decline and figured if we could harness the energy from a loaded truck coming down the hill, it could provide the power to send the empty truck back up the hill."

So that fairly simple observation became the basis of a search for a vehicle, which has culminated in New Zealand’s first electric truck put to full-time work in a commercial quarry operation.

Without a load, the XCMG 6x4 mining truck weighs in at 19.5 tonnes and has a carrying capacity of just under 30 tonnes. Being fully-electric, the truck relies solely on electricity provided from the grid via a fixed fast charger and regenerative braking.

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The fully-electric truck has a range of 120km unaided by brake regeneration power

Coupled to a seven-speed automatic transmission, the truck has a range of 120km before a recharge on the DC fast-charging system is required. However, in the case of using regenerative braking, the range is extended significantly, thanks to the truck running downhill loaded; so much in fact that juice from the grid is only required every couple of days.

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Ross Linton, director of Landex, estimates that the power bill for running the truck would be in the region of dollars per day, not tens of dollars.

"In the case of Logan Point Quarry, there’s a nice big hill to sit on the brakes all the way to the bottom and with a loaded truck, that free energy collected means the truck needs to be topped up every second or third day," Ross says.

Now that’s something worth pondering for a moment or two. "Our regular trucks are using something like 90 litres of diesel per day, so it’s easy to work out the cost benefits of using electricity over diesel," says Joe.

Making the switch

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The electric truck has a capacity of almost 30 tonnes

As expected, new technology can take a while to gain acceptance, although in this case, Ross says the customer was waiting for the right product to eventually turn up. "Yes, we had the ideal truck for this type of application," he says.

"A number of others talk electric this and that, but other than concept vehicles and some hybrids, very few have put electric trucks in an actual working situation where they have to work each day to earn their keep."

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According to Ross, the electric truck is easy to maintain and back-up support is readily available to customers. "I took Tony and Joe across to China to see an XCMG customer who is using these trucks in his large fleet, and I think that really cemented what can be achieved with these types of vehicles and their durability," Ross says.

"Although the electric truck is a little slower than the diesel-powered trucks up and down the hill, it’s carrying 30 tonnes as opposed to 20 tonnes, so overall, it’s carrying pretty much the same quantity as the smaller trucks each day," says Joe.

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The downhill loaded run with regenerative braking

According to Joe, the electric truck would suit any quarry with a downhill loaded cart and the longer the hill, the more free energy created. "It does pay to have a driver who’s receptive to using new technology, as it takes a bit of adjusting to how to drive the truck to collect the most energy from the regenerative braking, which has a direct flow-on effect to how much you need to top the truck up from the grid," he says.

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Power for the run to the top is almost free

Resale value

Probably one of the questions a prospective buyer may have will be on the resale value of the electric truck when replacement time came about. As Ross and Joe both agree, at this stage that question is a bit of an unknown.

"As I see it the truck is well-made, so it will be more a question of battery replacement time and cost, but as we are seeing all the time, the manufacturing price of those is continually reducing," says Ross.

Joe sums it up well: "It’s probably more a case of acceptance and whether the industry sees these as beneficial to their businesses and the environment. "For us, we thought it would be good to take the lead and see for ourselves whether our vision will play out as we saw it."

For more information, visit etrucks.co.nz.

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