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AVOLTRA ecruiser light elec­tric ve­hi­cle – based on the Toy­ota Land Cruiser 70 Se­ries – is cur­rently be­ing tri­alled at BHP Bil­li­ton’s Olympic Dam site in South Aus­tralia, be­fore it joins the com­pany’s un­der­ground fleet of light vehicles in July.

The Voltra ecruiser is a 70 Se­ries Land Cruiser that has had its in­nards re­moved – diesel en­gine, ex­haust sys­tem, fuel tank, ra­di­a­tor, snorkel and other en­ginere­lated com­po­nents – and re­placed with bat­tery boxes and lithium cells to cre­ate a 4WD with zero emis­sions.

“Charg­ing time is less than one hour when charged with the Voltra fast charger,” Voltra’s Project Man­ager, An­drew, told 4X4 Aus­tralia. “The ex­pected range is 80-100km in min­ing con­di­tions.”

The ben­e­fits of a zero-emis­sions min­ing ve­hi­cle are ob­vi­ous, with the most no­table be­ing the im­proved air qual­ity for un­der­ground work­ers, as they don’t have to breathe in diesel ex­haust emis­sions and par­tic­u­late mat­ter in the con­fines of a mine.

Not only will the ecruiser im­prove green­house gas emis­sions and the qual­ity of life for min­ers, there are added ben­e­fits asso­ciated with the changes.

Ac­cord­ing to An­drew, the ben­e­fits in­clude: “Less main­te­nance due to less mov­ing/wear­ing parts; [a] sav­ing on diesel us­age and stor­age; less heat and noise; greater op­er­a­tor com­fort; and less stress on the driv­e­line due to a smoother power de­liv­ery than the diesel en­gine.”

The elec­tric mo­tor also acts as a re­gen­er­a­tive brake, and the ecruiser min­imises the risk of fire when trans­port­ing flammable fu­els.

The long-term ben­e­fits of bat­tery power may see a re­duc­tion in both over­all costs and a min­ing com­pany’s car­bon foot­print.

BHP started its trial with the elec­tric Land Cruiser in June, 2018, where it is

un­der­go­ing fi­nal test­ing be­fore join­ing the com­pany’s 240-strong un­der­ground fleet in July. A sec­ond ve­hi­cle is ex­pected to join the fleet later in the year.

In a post on the BHP Olympic Dam Face­book page, the com­pany said: “It will be mon­i­tored for per­for­mance, power sup­ply, main­te­nance re­quire­ments, charg­ing time and cor­ro­sion re­sis­tance un­der­ground. The data we col­lect will be shared across BHP to help ac­cel­er­ate the broader de­ploy­ment of elec­tric light vehicles.”

BHP Olympic Dam has in­cluded the ecruiser in its fleet, “as part of a com­pany-wide trial aimed at re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions, ex­po­sure to diesel par­tic­u­late, and costs across our global or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

BHP says a de­ci­sion on wider de­ploy­ment at Olympic Dam is ex­pected to be made dur­ing the up­com­ing fi­nan­cial year.

BHP isn’t the only min­ing com­pany in the crosshairs of Voltra, with An­drew telling us that sev­eral other min­ing com­pa­nies and con­trac­tors are look­ing to im­ple­ment the ecruiser in the fu­ture.

What about other in­dus­tries? “While this ve­hi­cle can be adapted to be used in other in­dus­tries, Voltra is fo­cus­ing on the min­ing in­dus­try,” An­drew said. “If de­mand in­creases we will look to build a ve­hi­cle to suit the re­quire­ments of the other in­dus­tries.”

But, for now, Voltra is fo­cus­ing its at­ten­tion on the min­ing in­dus­try, with grand plans in store for the Au­to­line brand. “We are aim­ing to con­vert ev­ery min­ing ve­hi­cle in Aus­tralia and in­ter­na­tion­ally,” An­drew said.

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