As a charging solution for electric buses, Schunk Smart Charging already set new standards in the past. Now the system is also being successfully tested for the automated charging of battery-powered mining vehicles. Product Manager Timo Staubach explains the background of this pilot project that the world has never seen before.
Mr. Staubach, electric mobility is only just starting to gradually get rolling on our roads, and now you are expanding your charging system’s field of application to mining vehicles. What advantages does Schunk Smart Charging offer in this sector?
Timo Staubach: From the very beginning, we were aware that our Schunk Smart Charging solution can be applied in more sectors than just public transport. Battery-powered vehicles in ports and mines are a good fit for the system – here, too, the vehicles operate on fixed routes within a limited area. Using electric drives prevents emissions of large quantities of pollutants and drastically reduces fuel costs in this case too. If the vehicles also drive and charge autonomously - as in our pilot project with VOLVO CE - then personnel costs also decrease considerably.
Where exactly was Schunk Smart Charging used?
Timo Staubach: The demonstration project’s motto was “The Electric Site,” and its aim was to electrify and automate a gravel mine near Gothenburg to the greatest extent possible. VOLVO CE has been working on this project with other companies and universities since 2011. Schunk Smart Charging comes into play for charging the battery-powered transport vehicles. These transport the rocks in the mine, drive completely autonomously via GPS control, and are also automatically charged at their charging station during operation.
In electric buses, the pantograph or counterpiece sits on the roof. Did you have to find another solution for the mining vehicles?
Timo Staubach: We installed the charging counterpiece in the underbody of the vehicles, where it is sufficiently protected. When the vehicle is positioned at the charging station, the pantograph rises from the ground and connects with the counterpiece. The vehicle’s batteries are then charged with around 200 amps in just five minutes.
Was the project a success?
Timo Staubach: Absolutely! Fifty percent greater fuel efficiency, 40 percent lower operating costs, about 70 percent less energy costs, and a 98 percent reduction in CO2 emissions. These are impressive results. The 12-week demo operation has clearly shown that combined with automated rapid charging, the electric drive can be the technology of the future – even when subjected to extreme conditions and high safety requirements.