Net-Positive Earth Moving Equipment?

Massive earth moving equipment ranks among some of the heaviest and most costly machinery in the world, outside of experimental particle physics, of course…

Not surprisingly, the mostly diesel-powered mammoth vehicles typically employed for major infrastructure projects require a great deal of that diesel fuel to get the job done. Considering that in many such projects, vehicles and crews are run around the clock, the environmental impact of the operations are huge. But the situation may shift fairly dramatically.

According to Jonathan Gitlin, writing for Ars Technica, a Komatsu quarry truck has been outfitted by Kuhn Schweiz and Lithium Storage to use a 700 kWh battery to replace the diesel plant. And the results are astonishing:

The e-Dumper has been in the works for a couple of years now, during which time its battery capacity has grown from the original 600kWh to what is now the equivalent of seven top-of-the-line Teslas. The cells in question are nickel-manganese-cobalt, 1,440 of them in total, weighing almost 10,000lbs (4.5 tonnes). And once the team has found space in the chassis for all of that energy storage, the idea is for the e-Dumper to spend the next decade trundling between a Swiss cement quarry and the Ciments Vigier works near Biel.

Here’s the really cool part: each round trip actually generates electricity. Because the e-Dumper goes up the mountain empty and descends carrying 71 tons (65 tonnes) of rock, it captures 40kWh on the way to the cement works via regenerative braking. But climbing back up to the quarry only requires 30kWh, so every trip will feed an extra 10kWh into the local electricity grid. Not bad when you then consider that the e-Dumper will be doing that trip 20 times a day.

Of course the true environmental impact of massive machines like the e-Dumper (sounds like the name of a potty-training app for kids…) isn’t limited to the use of fossil fuels. But at least this seems like a step in the right direction.