You know what, we've got to give it to ourselves and our forefathers before us, 'we' humans are pretty smart. From the invention of the wheel and the emergence of the steam engine, to the creation of electricity and more recently (and most memorably, for our generation anyway..), the coming of the digital age. Brilliant stuff. These developments have impacted every aspect of our lives from transport and manufacturing, right through to the way we order our takeaway food. It's of little surprise then, that mining has contributed to, and benefited from, these profound developments.
Introduced in the 1960's, miners were first exposed to the concept of diesel driven, electrically propelled DC (direct current) haul trucks. Originally derived from high-horsepower diesel locomotives, it didn't take long for the engineers and operators to recognise the advantages that could be achieved in propelling vehicles with electricity. To understand 'why' however, we must first understand the 'how'. Imagine for a moment then, that you increased the size of the alternator bolted to your car's engine (usually used to charge your car's battery) to boost the electrical current produced. With the creation of a direct current (DC), you install an inverter (an electronic device or circuitry that changes direct current to alternating current) to convert your electricity into a more efficient alternating current (AC) and food used to feed the electric motors (four in total) to propel each wheel of your car. Voila. Easy, right.. Much like the hybrid and electric cars that we're now seeing on our roads, these AC motors are proving faster, with more powerful (and controlled) acceleration, stronger braking performance and greater fuel efficiency. Compelling factors for miners, especially when one considers that an empty electric drive dump truck can clock between 80 to 100km/h if allowed... I tell you no lies.
Now, I know for many of the 'true believers', electric driven vehicles just ain't cricket. They don't sound the same and especially don't smell right! What's undeniable though, is that they're here to stay and will in time surpass our mechanical brothers. If you don't believe me, just ask Caterpillar, considered by many the mechanical 'Godfather' of mining. Cat recently introduced their 794AC and 795F AC electric drive trucks in response to competitors such as Komatsu, the first manufacturer to commercially produce AC propelled haul trucks for the mining market. Introduced in 1995, the 930E Haulpak as it was then known, was created when Komatsu partnered with General Electric (GE) to produce the first true, two-axle, 272-tonne-plus AC dump truck. An innovation that captured the minds of miners and one that our forefathers would surely have been proud of (just like the wheel, steam engine and electricity that came before it).
This article was originally published by the Components Only team in the September - October 2017 issue of "@ The Coal Face" magazine.Published 22 September, 2017