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How Carbon Emissions Have Been Slashed At Quarry

Category: Energy & Environment,Finance

Lithium-ion autonomous Volvo CE prototype HX2s in use at the electric quarryVolvo CE

In the cold November sunshine, even the rocks seemed to be sparkling.

I watched mesmerized as a fleet of eight green Volvo Construction Equipment (CE) autonomous electric HX2 load carriers carrying crushed rocks trundled their way up to the surface of the quarry and then back down more slowly to the pit floor. It was surprisingly quiet; if it hadn't been for the sound of the rocks being off-loaded into the trucks, it might have been almost spooky.

Without the weight of a driver and cab, and with just a light lithium-ion battery, the autonomous electric load carriers can move much faster than conventional fossil fuel vehicles. GPS controlled, they follow a pre-programmed but adjustable path.  If someone walks in front of them, radar and lidar sensors tell them to stop. After seven minutes, they return to a charging station to recharge for a minute.

All the transport stages have been electrified at this site, the world’s first electric quarry, at Skanska's Vikan Kross quarry outside Gothenburg, Sweden, where a combination of electric and hybrid Volvo CE vehicles have been used over a ten-week trial run by the two companies. The results have surpassed expectations: carbon emissions have been cut by 98%.

All of the electricity used by Skanska Sweden comes from renewable sources. The same site, before the trial, generated 8,700 kg carbon emissions a day; now, that figure is 166kg day. That the quarry is almost entirely emissions-free is significant news for the beleaguered construction industry, a heavy carbon emitter.

Worldwide, building and construction account for 40% of global carbon emissions. But the industry is under huge pressure to meet government environmental targets.  Skanska and Volvo CE are both committed to halving Co2 emissions by 2030 and being carbon neutral by 2045.

The electric quarry trial has cost SEK 205m, split between Volvo CE, Skanska and its partners in the venture, The Swedish Energy Agency, Linköping and Mälardalen Universities, with Volvo CE contributing the most at SEK 130m.

It's the first time Volvo CE's electric and hybrid vehicles - which incorporate a battery and other technology from the Volvo Group – have been tested together at a customer siteEX1

As well as the load carriers, Volvo CE used prototype LX1 electric hybrid wheel loaders to organize the material excavated; a new lifting unit provided a 50% improvement in fuel efficiency.  An adapted crawler excavator, equipped with an electric motor, has been reinvented as the prototype EX1, a 70-ton loader. It is connected by a bright yellow cable to the quarry’s electricity grid so that it doesn’t generate any emissions. If the power were to go down, the EX1 automatically starts in diesel mode.

Volvo CE has been honest about what worked, and what didn't work so well. For instance, dust in front of the HX2s interfered with its radar, while existing wireless communications would have to be modified to work underground.

The production results have been so encouraging that Skanska and Volvo CE have decided to continue the trials until Christmas. Over the ten weeks, energy costs fell by 70% while labor costs fell by 40%. For Volvo CE, this is a big shot in the arm. The question is, how soon can it get these vehicles on the market.

Melker Jernberg, President of Volvo CE, speaking at the electric siteFotograf Jonas Ljungdahl

Several customers traveled from all over the world to the electric quarry last week for the unveiling of the trial results, some even forsaking the warmth of Brazil for Gothenburg in winter.  One asked when customers would be able to buy the vehicles used at the site, arguing that the speed of change in technology today demands fast solutions. It was a good question; it is still unclear when Volvo CE's electric vehicles will be commercially available.

I asked Melker Jernberg, President of Volvo CE, about this later. “Electrifying a machine isn’t the hard part,” he replied.

“The important thing that we have done is to combine electromobility, automation, and connectivity to create a system with a fleet of machines doing real work on a real site. This is a pilot project, and ultimately, there will be a commercial application. We will respond quickly if there is a demand from our customers to adopt this technology."

Some customers had been questioning whether autonomous electric vehicles meant sacrificing flexibility. "Speed is not an issue," replied Jernberg, "and you can optimize production because you know the cycle."

More to the point, the operator can programme the machine, he added. "That is the beauty of working with machines like this. Unlike children, they do exactly what you tell them to do."

Amen to that.

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Lithium-ion autonomous Volvo CE prototype HX2s in use at the electric quarryVolvo CE

In the cold November sunshine, even the rocks seemed to be sparkling.

I watched mesmerized as a fleet of eight green Volvo Construction Equipment (CE) autonomous electric HX2 load carriers carrying crushed rocks trundled their way up to the surface of the quarry and then back down more slowly to the pit floor. It was surprisingly quiet; if it hadn't been for the sound of the rocks being off-loaded into the trucks, it might have been almost spooky.

Without the weight of a driver and cab, and with just a light lithium-ion battery, the autonomous electric load carriers can move much faster than conventional fossil fuel vehicles. GPS controlled, they follow a pre-programmed but adjustable path.  If someone walks in front of them, radar and lidar sensors tell them to stop. After seven minutes, they return to a charging station to recharge for a minute.

All the transport stages have been electrified at this site, the world’s first electric quarry, at Skanska's Vikan Kross quarry outside Gothenburg, Sweden, where a combination of electric and hybrid Volvo CE vehicles have been used over a ten-week trial run by the two companies. The results have surpassed expectations: carbon emissions have been cut by 98%.

All of the electricity used by Skanska Sweden comes from renewable sources. The same site, before the trial, generated 8,700 kg carbon emissions a day; now, that figure is 166kg day. That the quarry is almost entirely emissions-free is significant news for the beleaguered construction industry, a heavy carbon emitter.

Worldwide, building and construction account for 40% of global carbon emissions. But the industry is under huge pressure to meet government environmental targets.  Skanska and Volvo CE are both committed to halving Co2 emissions by 2030 and being carbon neutral by 2045.

The electric quarry trial has cost SEK 205m, split between Volvo CE, Skanska and its partners in the venture, The Swedish Energy Agency, Link√∂ping and M√§lardalen Universities, with Volvo CE contributing the most at SEK 130m.

It's the first time Volvo CE's electric and hybrid vehicles - which incorporate a battery and other technology from the Volvo Group – have been tested together at a customer siteEX1

As well as the load carriers, Volvo CE used prototype LX1 electric hybrid wheel loaders to organize the material excavated; a new lifting unit provided a 50% improvement in fuel efficiency.  An adapted crawler excavator, equipped with an electric motor, has been reinvented as the prototype EX1, a 70-ton loader. It is connected by a bright yellow cable to the quarry’s electricity grid so that it doesn’t generate any emissions. If the power were to go down, the EX1 automatically starts in diesel mode.

Volvo CE has been honest about what worked, and what didn't work so well. For instance, dust in front of the HX2s interfered with its radar, while existing wireless communications would have to be modified to work underground.

The production results have been so encouraging that Skanska and Volvo CE have decided to continue the trials until Christmas. Over the ten weeks, energy costs fell by 70% while labor costs fell by 40%. For Volvo CE, this is a big shot in the arm. The question is, how soon can it get these vehicles on the market.

Melker Jernberg, President of Volvo CE, speaking at the electric siteFotograf Jonas Ljungdahl

Several customers traveled from all over the world to the electric quarry last week for the unveiling of the trial results, some even forsaking the warmth of Brazil for Gothenburg in winter.  One asked when customers would be able to buy the vehicles used at the site, arguing that the speed of change in technology today demands fast solutions. It was a good question; it is still unclear when Volvo CE's electric vehicles will be commercially available.

I asked Melker Jernberg, President of Volvo CE, about this later. “Electrifying a machine isn’t the hard part,” he replied.

“The important thing that we have done is to combine electromobility, automation, and connectivity to create a system with a fleet of machines doing real work on a real site. This is a pilot project, and ultimately, there will be a commercial application. We will respond quickly if there is a demand from our customers to adopt this technology."

Some customers had been questioning whether autonomous electric vehicles meant sacrificing flexibility. "Speed is not an issue," replied Jernberg, "and you can optimize production because you know the cycle."

More to the point, the operator can programme the machine, he added. "That is the beauty of working with machines like this. Unlike children, they do exactly what you tell them to do."

Amen to that.


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