The Underground Mining group within Caterpillar is preparing to ship a “proof-of-concept” battery-electric R1300G LHD (load/haul/dump) unit to a Canadian mine for testing. The initial build and validation testing of the unit began in early 2017 at the Caterpillar Peoria Proving Grounds and will continue into 2018.
Modifications to the R1300G include removal of the engine, transmission, and torque converter—then reconfiguring the engine-end frame to accommodate the battery boxes and electric motors that will power a conventional mechanical drivetrain with drive shafts and axles.
Proof-of-concept testing, says Caterpillar, involves evaluating the new model for packaging and performance of a lithium-based energy-storage solution that the company plans to bring to the LHD market. The R1300G on test does not represent a final design, says Caterpillar, and after this phase of field testing, the company will launch a “full-fledged new-product introduction program that follows a more in-depth, rigorous design and validation process.”
“Our customers are planning for deeper mines with very high ambient rock temperatures, where ventilation costs are pivotal to making the mine viable,” says Jay Armburger, product manager, with responsibility for underground technology. “One means of reducing ventilation demand is through electrification of mining equipment.”
Along with developing the machine itself, Caterpillar also is working on battery-charging technology.
“All of the customers who have visited the machine agree that pursuing a system that is rechargeable on the machine is the right path forward,” says Armburger. “Recharging on the machine allows the mine to avoid incurring additional infrastructure costs and to avoid having to manage or store replaceable battery packs.”