Autonomous Battery Charging
“Autonomous battery charging is a vital component of the electrical autonomous mine.”
– William Lancaster, Epiroc
William is a Project Manager that focuses on the implementation of Battery Electric Vehicles. His previous work includes work at Northvolt for Battery Module production and Scania for Electric Truck regulations. He decided to start focusing on BEV because he wanted to work on future tech designs and help move the world away from fossil fuels. In his spare time, William cooks and writes science fiction detective novels.
Autonomous battery charging is about getting the power to the machines as quickly and efficiently as possible, making sure that machines with empty batteries get full batteries so they can return to work.
Why this matters
An autonomous mine is all about efficiency. For these mines, the goal is to have the machines running twenty-four hours a day to produce a continuous flow of rock to the be sent to the processing units. Machines that are sitting still are machines that are not producing profit and requiring them to wait an hour out of every eight to recharge results in a lot of down time.
The goal of autonomous battery charging is to reduce this down time as much as possible. Our goal is to see how much we can reduce the time to get a fully charged battery back on the machine, and the machine back moving again.
How we work
The process of learning starts by listening. Autonomous charging is part of a much larger ecosystem in the Next Generation Mine. We have been in close contact with current mines to determine what their needs are, we have had detailed discussions with the Automation Team, and we are working closely with Epiroc’s Next Gen Design Groups. Our goal is to make a cost effective and efficient solution that will serve as the gold standard in mines for a long time to come.
The best way to charge a machine depends on the way that the machine has been created. The current generation of machines are manually driven diesel machines that have been retrofitted into electrically powered autonomous machines.
The challenge of autonomous battery charging is to envision what the next generation machines, ones that have been designed from scratch as electrically powered and autonomous, might be like and then determine how we are going to charge them.
We have been in close cooperation with Epiroc’s Next Gen design projects to understand what these machines of the future will look like so we can make sure they are designed for autonomous charging from the beginning.
The first KPI we are working for is speed − how quickly we can transition from a machine with an empty battery to a machine with a full battery.
Equally important is the question of cost. We need to make sure that our charging solutions are economically viable.
An often overlooked KPI is one of size. The battery charging needs to be able to function in the limited space of a mine.
Finally, our charging designs need to be modular, to be able to be used in the many different types of mines.