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Williams Advanced Engineering is electrifying a mining truck and ‘Infinity Train’


Cars and motorbikes? Easy. Heaving mining fleet and a train that’ll use gravity to recharge its batteries? Er, sure

EV mining truck

All you had to do was follow the damn train, CJ!

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It probably goes without saying that mining vehicles have not, historically speaking, been the first thing you’d call environmentally friendly. That whole ‘ripping the earth open for valuable minerals’ thing probably has a decent amount to do with it – just a guess – but there’s also the not-insignificant matter of the astonishing amount of diesel they get through. 

Or rather got through, if Williams Advanced Engineering has its way. 

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If you can believe it, WAE’s aim is to help deliver a zero-emissions, full-electric mining fleet for new parent company Fortescue – one of the biggest iron-ore mining companies in the world. 

That means developing and producing EV powertrains that can power some of the biggest, heaviest land vehicles in the world – which are then tasked with carrying hundreds of tonnes up a steep gradient, without respite and without fail. Just to put things in perspective, a popular haul truck – the CAT 797 – makes between 3,000 and 4,000bhp, and weighs about 600 tonnes fully loaded. Oh, and takes somewhere between 3,500 and 7,500 litres of diesel to refill. 

So, solve that with batteries, and make sure they’re rugged enough for an industry that can kill brand-new Hiluxes stone dead in a matter of years, regardless of upkeep. Yeah, simple. Anything else you want sorted?

Well yes, apparently. Beyond mining trucks, Williams’ brainiac division (no, that really doesn’t narrow it down, does it?) is tasked with ‘scalable, modular’ battery modules for the ‘off-highway’ – i.e. mining and construction – sector, as well as something called an ‘Infinity Train’. 

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What this means in practice, beyond some serious Snowpiercer vibes, is a zero-emission electric train that will ‘use gravitational energy to recharge its battery electric systems without any additional charging requirements for the return trip to reload’. Which is a touch difficult to parse, if we’re honest. But, if we’ve uncrossed the wires (and our eyes) well enough, it means that for the downhill trip from the mine to the docks, the Infinity Train will use its Motor Generator Units (had to get F1 lingo in there somewhere) to charge the batteries for the return trip. 

But, as even the top-line, broad-strokes information from Williams involves phrases like ‘laser-welded cell-to-busbar technology’ and ‘flexible heterogenous MPSoC processor’, we’re going to pull up stumps here. If you are keen to learn more – and it doesn’t already feel like your brains have liquefied – you should probably get along to Bauma next week. 

Bauma, in case context alone didn’t already sort this one out, is a gigantic, week-long trade fair for all things mining and construction. How gigantic, you ask? Well, even in Munich – a part of the world that’s not too bad on the whole ‘organising things’ front – they only put it on every three years. So, that might give you some indication. 

But if your day isn’t complete without seeing excavators the size of buildings, live displays of earthmoving and enough cranes to build HS2 in about a week… well, you might very well be a three-year-old boy. It probably also goes without saying that you’re the kind of person who’d appreciate Bauma.

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