The world’s first hydrogen-powered haul truck could help clean up the mining industry

CNN  — 

Standing three stories tall and weighing 500 metric tons fully loaded, a typical mining haul truck is one of the largest vehicles on the planet.

It also happens to be major emissions contributor in a pollution-heavy sector. According to consulting firm McKinsey, the mining industry annually contributes up to 7% of the world’s carbon emissions. Roughly 50% of that comes from the haulage trucks, which are used to transport heavy rocks between different sites, says David Gerhardt, principal systems engineer for First Mode, a Seattle-based clean energy company.

That’s why First Mode is designing a zero-emission solution to replace the truck’s diesel engine. To do so, it is looking to one of the most abundant natural resources in the world: hydrogen.

After starting the project in 2019, the company says it has created the world’s largest mobile hydrogen power plant – a hybrid that integrates hydrogen fuel cells with battery power.

In order to power a vehicle of this size, the power plant has to generate two megawatts of electricity each second, which is enough energy to power 1,500 American homes.

Making mining moves

To reach that output goal, Gerhardt says they had to do something that had never been done before. “The scale of fuel cells that we were looking for didn’t exist on the market,” he notes.

Instead, First Mode combined multiple smaller fuel modules to create a hybrid power plant weighing 25 metric tons.