Last year, I shared the lesser-known story of the first electric Minis. For most people, the first electric Mini was the one revealed around the time of the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show, but it turns out that more than 15 years earlier, most of us saw electric Minis on the big screen and didn’t know it.
During filming of the 2003 movie The Italian Job, 32 Mini Cooper vehicles were utilized to capture various aspects of the film. However, so many of the cars were involved in little wrecks during filming that a 24-hour dedicated body shop was established to repair and prepare the damaged vehicles for further filming. Each car was modified and tailored to suit its specific role in the production. Several adjustments were made to ensure that the cars were ready to serve the requirements of the respective scenes they were participating in.
In addition to custom suspensions, lightweight builds, and modifications of various car parts, the filmmakers had to go beyond these measures to ensure that some shots complied with local regulations. During production in tunnels beneath Los Angeles, the filmmakers had to eliminate combustion engines entirely to avoid offending local governments. Trying to run the Minis underground on gasoline power just wasn’t safe.
Director F. Gary Gray said:
“I think one of the best moments in the movie with the minis was when they drive down the Walk of Fame, and they avoid a lot of people. It was a crowded sidewalk and they make a left turn, and jump down these stairs. The actors did this stunt, actually. They drove down the set of stairs and they make a quick right turn and avoid a bunch of pedestrians.”
“They wouldn’t allow us to shoot in the tunnels with cars that had combustion engines. So, I said ‘OK, great, we’ll just get electric Minis and that’ll be fine.’ I called BMW and they said, ‘there aren’t any electric Minis, they don’t exist.”
“John Carpenter, my transportation coordinator did a great job at figuring out engineering and building a trio of electric Minis. The only electric minis that existed on the planet Earth, and it’s one of my favorite moments with the Minis because of the size. I mean, you can’t imagine any other car doing this stunt except for the Minis.”
You can learn more about the motors and batteries that were used in those custom electric Minis here, but suffice it to say, the cars had just enough range to film the scenes in the movie, and not quite enough for real-world use.
Hollywood’s foray into subway tunnels to film a movie is far from the only time people need vehicles that work underground without killing people. In that same movie, we saw the subway trains themselves, also powered by electric (as is common all over the world). But, as Volvo recently figured out, there’s another industry that works underground, wants vehicles, and just can’t live with ICE: miners.
Boliden, the Swedish mining group, will soon become one of the pioneers in the world to incorporate battery-electric trucks for heavy-duty underground transport, as early as 2023. The introduction of electric trucks in mining environments is expected to offer significant advantages such as zero-emission of exhaust, a safer work environment for workers, and (mostly) noise-free working conditions.
As with many other mining companies, Boliden recognizes the need for more sustainable production methods to reduce the climate footprint of the metals it produces. Diesel vehicles in mines contribute significantly to carbon dioxide emissions, and the transition to battery-electric transport is a critical solution for the industry. Boliden aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030, and electrification of transport is expected to play a pivotal role in achieving this target.
The mining industry is currently undergoing a rapid transformation towards sustainable production methods, and Boliden’s move towards electric trucks for heavy-duty underground transportation is a significant step towards meeting its sustainability goals.
The recent agreement between Boliden and Volvo Trucks will enable the use of two heavy-duty electric Volvo trucks in Boliden’s Kankberg mine, located in northern Sweden outside Skellefteå. It is anticipated that the electrification of all trucks used in the mine could lead to a reduction of more than 25% in CO2 emissions from the mine.
“This is an exciting collaboration in an environment with very tough demands; steep slopes, heavy loads and humid air that wears on the vehicles,” says Jessica Lindholm, project manager at Volvo Trucks. “The collaboration with Boliden will give us valuable knowledge about the performance of electric trucks when driven underground, and provide answers to questions about how the driveline and batteries are affected. Reduced carbon dioxide emissions for mining transport also means that we, indirectly, will reduce our own CO2 emissions, because the mining industry’s raw materials are used in our trucks.”
The initial vehicle that will operate in the Kankberg mine will be a Volvo FH Electric truck, which is expected to start services in 2023. This vehicle will be utilized primarily for transporting rock bolts and equipment into the mine. Following the success of the first electric truck, another Volvo FH Electric will be incorporated for underground transportation of rock and ore.
“We see the collaboration with Volvo as a fantastic opportunity to push the electric technology forward and at the same time learn how to adapt our operations for a transition to fossil-free underground transport. A major benefit of the trucks is that they will contribute to a more sustainable mine, both in terms of emissions and also the working environment for our employees,” comments Dennis Forslund, project manager at Boliden. “In addition, the total amount of energy consumed in the mine will be lower as electric drive is more energy efficient than a diesel engine, and it is possible to capture the electricity regenerated during engine braking on downhill slopes.”
According to Volvo Trucks, it is the leading provider in heavy electric trucks in Europe and the US, and offers the broadest range of electric trucks in the market. Currently, six Volvo electric truck models are in series production, covering various transport requirements, including urban distribution, refuse disposal, regional transport, and construction traffic.
The company is committed to the goal that by 2030, 50% of new trucks sold will be electric, thus promoting a sustainable future in the transportation industry. Hopefully this is a goal they can achieve, because we all need them to.
Featured image provided by Volvo Trucks.
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