An old joke asks, “What is bright orange, has 6 wheels, and sleeps 4?” The answer? “A state highway department truck.” OK, that’s unfair to state highway workers but it’s still mildly amusing. The question for today is, “What electric vehicle is bright green, has a cargo capacity of 65 tons, and never needs recharging?”
The answer is the the Elektro Dumper, a 45-ton dump truck with a 9,000 pound, 600 kWh battery pack provided by Lithium Storage. Kuhn Schweitz fits the battery, electric motors, and control systems to a Komatsu HB 605-7 dump truck — one of the largest in the world. It is 30 feet long, 14 feet wide, and 14 feet tall. The tires are six feet high, and the dump bed reaches to more than 28 feet when fully raised, according to Green Car Reports. The eDumper weighs 45 tons empty.
The beauty of this beast is that it is an electric vehicle that never has to be recharged. As it descends from the top of quarry near Biel, Switzerland with a its 65 ton load of rocks, it produces more electricity from regenerative braking than it uses to ascend to the top once again.
On a recent trip, the eDumper reached the top of the quarry with an 80% state of charge. When it was done with the journey, the state of charge was 88%. The electric truck makes 20 trips a day and creates more than 200 kWh of surplus energy every day or 77 megawatt-hours a year, according to Green Car Reports. By contrast, an equivalent dump truck powered by a diesel engine would consume up to 22,000 gallons of diesel fuel and spew 196 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
The eDumper should be good news. Decarbonizing the entire transportation sector is critical to prevent the Earth from overheating to the point where it is no longer able to support human habitation. But there is another side to this story.
The quarry where the eDumper labors is owned by Swiss cement company Ciments Vigier SA. Cement production is incredibly energy intensive and itself is responsible for about 8% of all global carbon emissions.
There are new technologies available that would dramatically lower the carbon impact of the cement industry. It’s all well and good for a cement manufacturer to use electric trucks in its quarry, but more needs to be done to find alternatives to cement in the first place. The eDumper is equivalent to switching to electricity to mine coal. It’s good but not good enough and amounts to little more than greenwashing.