The curious-looking prototype machine above, Volvo Construction Equipment’s (Volvo CE) HX1 autonomous battery-electric load carrier, is one element of an electric site research project that predicts up to a 95 percent reduction in carbon emissions and up to a 25 percent reduction in total cost of ownership.
The project aims to electrify a transport stage in a quarry, from excavation to primary crushing and transport to secondary crushing. It involves developing new machines, work methods, and site-management systems. Equipment for the electric site system not only includes a fleet of HX1 driverless dumpers, but also a prototype hybrid wheel loader and a grid-connected excavator. New technology encompasses machine- and fleet-control systems, and logistic solutions, for electric machines in quarries.
“This research project is a step towards transforming the quarry and aggregates industry,” says Johan Sjöberg, technical specialist in site automation at Volvo CE. “By using electricity instead of diesel to power construction equipment in a quarry, we have the potential to deliver significant reductions in fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, environmental impact, and cost per ton. The electrification of construction equipment will produce cleaner, quieter and more efficient machines—this represents the future of our industry.”
Volvo CE has teamed up with its customer Skanska Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency and two Swedish universities, Linköping University and Mälardalen University, to collaborate on the approximately $22 million project. Volvo CE is coordinating the project and is in charge of developing the machines and systems. Skanska Sweden is providing logistical solutions, application relevance, and job site knowledge.
The Swedish Energy Agency, a government agency for national energy policy issues, is helping to fund the project. The universities are carrying out the research. Three PhD university students are looking at energy management for electric vehicles, safe and robust software controls, and energy-optimized work-cycle control.
The project started in October 2015 and is due to be completed in late 2018.
Volvo CE is currently developing and testing the technologies, concept, and prototypes in-house. Skanska Sweden will incorporate the demonstration machines into its operations and test the electric site concept at a quarry in western Sweden for 10 weeks at the end of 2018. After the test, Volvo CE will examine the project results to see if the concept is viable for the industry.
The company says that, at this stage, the work is just a research project with no plans for industrialization—but it also told journalists last September that it has customers interested in the hybrid wheel loader right now. (Waste Management has committed to test the hybrids in California this year.)
The electric site research initiative in Sweden is jointly funded: Volvo CE has invested roughly $14 million; the Swedish Energy Agency has provided SEK around $7 million; and Skanska Sweden has contributed just under $1 million.
“This type of cooperation between Volvo CE, its customers, governments, and academia allows us to invest in new technologies and explore solutions that are both relevant for our customer base and address future challenges,” says Erik Uhlin, advanced engineering technical project leader at Volvo CE.
“Each year, Volvo invests a substantial amount of money in emerging technologies, advanced engineering and product development,” Uhlin says. “But without vital public funding and support from partners it would not be possible for research projects like this to go ahead.”
You can see further detail on Volvo’s grand vision for the transport stage of an electric site quarry on the charts in the gallery below.