Off Highway Electrification

| Transport

WAE is applying its vehicle electrification expertise to the off-highway construction and mining industries

Williams Advanced Engineering takes electrification off highway for the construction and mining industries

Held every three years in Munich, the Bauma trade show focuses its attention on the technology of construction and mining and is a regular event on the calendars of suppliers of construction machinery, building material machines, mining machines, construction vehicles and construction equipment. At this year’s event, held in October, electrification of plant and machinery was a dominant theme as the construction industry is striving towards net zero targets similar to other industries with high carbon emissions.

Achieving such targets requires large technological gains and therefore the participation of advanced engineering organisations is vital to the industry. This year, there was no shortage of technology giants at the event, all of whom were demonstrating the advances they’ve made in off-road vehicle technology and striking partnerships with companies that supply the construction and mining sectors.

One such company in attendance was Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE). Recently acquired by Fortescue Metals Group, WAE now has a stake in the mining industry and is assisting Fortescue in achieving its aim of delivering a zero-emissions mining fleet by the end of the decade.

At Bauma 2022, WAE was demonstrating its advanced battery and energy storage technology, which has been specifically developed for the rugged use cases of mining and other off-highway applications.

With its expertise in high performance battery technology developed originally for motorsport and road vehicles, WAE’s acquisition by Fortescue naturally lead to the company becoming involved in transitioning its established battery technology to the off-highway sector, using its expertise to become a global green renewables and resources company through the decarbonisation of the worldwide off highway vehicle fleet.

Additionally, WAE is working on a world first, zero emission “Infinity Train”, a regenerating battery electric iron ore train project which will use gravitational energy to recharge its battery electric systems without any additional charging requirements for the return trip to reload.

The technology demonstrated by WAE at Bauma included several elements of battery systems and management.

Modular Battery Management

Featuring a scalable, modular design delivering sub-30min pack charge times for maximum performance, WAE’s Off-Highway Battery Module boasts laser-welded cell-to-busbar technology for in service reliability. It also has a robust alloy frame, which improves durability and extends life in service, as well as optimised cell packaging for maximum energy density.

To unlock battery performance through its software architecture, WAE’s Battery Management Unit is designed for pack architectures of less than 800V. Its advanced state detection algorithms allow for more efficient energy usage, while the unit also reduces equipment down-time by enabling maximised fast charge rates.

In addition the Cell Management Unit enables real-time telematics to maximise cell performance by enabling high precision cell voltage and temperature monitoring. Its innovative flexi interconnects result in enhanced durability, while the system’s design also allows manufacturing complexity to be reduced for high volume applications.

WAE’s DC-DC Converter is a 600kW 1.5kV – 1kV stepdown converter for high power loads with a ruggedised design developed for deployment in off-highway vehicle applications. Its Silicon Carbide (SiC) technology delivers exceptional efficiency of 98.5%, while full power operation takes place at ambient temperature of 50oC.

Additionally, the Vehicle Control Module is a powerful processing platform to unlock vehicle performance advantages, featuring a versatile vehicle system controller. Specifically designed for decarbonised powertrains, it has a flexible heterogenous MPSoC processor.

According to Graham Belgum, General Manager for Green Fleet, WAE, high performance battery and electrification systems are at the core of what WAE does. Over the last two decades, the company has garnered unparalleled experience in the development of cutting-edge technology which, increasingly is being applied to the off-highway sector.

“Now that we are part of the Fortescue family, WAE is central to battery power systems and products capability, supporting the business as it transitions to a clean, green fleet. Our technology has the potential to accelerate the decarbonisation of any off-highway vehicle,” he says.

Partners in Mining

Earlier this year, Fortescue established a partnership with Liebherr centred around the development of green mining haul trucks in which zero emission power system technologies developed by WAE would be integrated.

A key element of the partnership is Liebherr’s ability to work in conjunction with WAE and FFI to develop electric battery and fuel cell systems that will be integrated into Liebherr’s T264 mining trucks.

Liebherr’s partnership with both WAE and FMG became a key part of Liebherr’s Zero Emission Mining Programme. The company’s trolley trucks and electric mining excavators already provide low and zero emission vehicles but Liebherr is nonetheless continuing to work within the Zero Emission Mining Programme so that it can provide complete mining systems for dozing, loading and hauling, all free of fossil fuels by 2030.

Liebherr says that working with Tier 1 companies like WAE and FMG will ensure that the deadline of 2030 is met.

According to Dave Rawlins, Head of Engineering Technology, WAE, the partnership will enable customers, including FMG, to move towards net zero emissions through delivery and management of drive systems across the complete product lifecycle.

“We are delighted to be working on a strategic partnership with Liebherr to integrate zero emission drive systems into its products,” he says.

During his conversations with customers at Bauma, Bryant Ward of Liebherr discovered that many are aware of the urgency to adopt newer, greener ways of doing things. He says that many customers know that they need to move to ZEM products but aren’t sure which direction to take.

“With Liebherr having a clear ZEM strategy, they seem to have a high level of confidence that we will achieve our targets and therefore are very interested in considering Liebherr for future purchases of equipment,” he says.

Electric Axles

Also exhibiting its latest electrification technology at Bauma was Allison Transmission, a specialist in electrified vehicle propulsion for medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles.

The company was exhibiting its new electric axle, the Allison eGen Power for construction applications, such as tipper trucks, concrete mixers and heavy duty tractors.

The Allison eGen Power is a drop-in component that’s compatible with many existing truck chassis, helping OEMs to accelerate their vehicle development programmes. It features fully integrated electric motors, a two-speed gearbox, an integrated oil cooler and pump for optimal efficiency and performance and is compatible with battery electric vehicles (BEV) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) as well as hybrid applications.

There is also a twin-motor eGen Power 130D, a 13 tonne variant, specifically designed for the European and Asia Pacific markets. This model has a continuous output of 454 kilowatts and a peak output power of 652 kilowatts, making it one of the most powerful electric axles on the market. It is designed for great starting and climbing capabilities, high speed and impressive efficiency. This allows heavy duty trucks to offer substantial performance and reliability, rapid acceleration and excellent manoeuvrability

The eGen range of axles complements the existing range of TerraTran transmission products designed for the extreme demands of the global construction and mining markets but moves the company on to the important market of electric transmissions to meet the demanding net zero ambitions of the construction and mining sectors.

Jonathan Newell
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