July 10, 2023

Battery vehicles in underground operations

The adoption of battery electric vehicles underground and electrification, in general, is gaining pace, thanks to clear benefits including cleaner operations and high-cost savings over a project lifetime, writes Samu Kukkonen, Technology Director at Normet.

Follow trends and communicate benefits 

In our business segment of mining and tunnelling, there is a lot of hype around electrifying the industry. But it’s not only hype. These changes are happening for real. Companies are willing to invest in the technology if the benefits are clearly shown, and they can see how the investment will improve the overall efficiency of their underground operations. 

There are multiple aspects to electrification that appeal to different stakeholders. For example, the people actually using battery electric vehicles appreciate the increase in performance compared to diesel machines, and the greatly improved working environment thanks to emission-free operation and almost no heat production. The management wants to take care of their workers, so these benefits are also important to them.  

For designers and planners, electrification means you can incorporate the required infrastructure more easily and cheaply than the more extensive ventilation systems otherwise required. And those cost savings are noticed by the investors and shareholders who are also interested in sustainable investments, for which electrification is also a tool. 

We have noticed that electrification has become more popular globally since 2019 when we introduced our BEVs to the market, but there are differences between mining and tunnelling. In mining, the demand is really growing worldwide as the industry has become more aware of the technology and its benefits. When it comes to tunnelling, the adoption of this technology is perhaps driven a bit more by guidelines, so in the European Union, for example, we see more interest in electrification because regulations demand it.  

Making electrification an easy option 

Naturally, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to adopting new things. Mining companies need to know what to procure, machines need to be built according to local requirements, supplies and spare parts need to be available. For some customers, this can happen very quickly. For others it takes time to work through all the details. And that of course is where Normet can make the process easier at every step, because we understand what is needed and how we can meet those needs.  

Normet is in any case a global company, and our expertise is well-known for covering the whole underground construction process. We have spent many years researching and analysing battery technology to make sure it is as safe as possible for underground use. We want to help our customers by building the safest, best-value machines for their operating environments.  

The machines and equipment we produce are designed to last a long time. We want to make all our machines available as electric variants and are putting a lot of effort into researching the different applications and improving our machines. Electrification gives us not only the means to improve applications but individual processes such as electric hammers that consume less energy and are easier to operate. It also means that we can more easily collect usage and performance data to continue developing and improving our solutions. 

When we communicate the technological and operational benefits of electrification to our customers, from significant cost savings at the project level to improved safety and sustainability, it becomes a much easier choice for our partners to make. 

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