On the August 29, 2018, Volvo Construction Equipment and its customer, Skanska, began testing the viability of its Electric Site concept, aiming to turn the quarrying industry upside down in a groundbreaking study to create the world’s first emission-free quarry.
They started the testing process at Skanska's Vikan Kross quarry near Gothenburg, Sweden, which produces aggregates for construction purposes as well as for asphalt and cement. Volvo's goal is to electrify each transport stage, from excavation to primary and secondary crushing. The system, which incorporates electric and autonomous Volvo machines, will run in a real production environment for 10 weeks, delivering an anticipated 95-percent reduction in carbon emissions and 25-percent reduction in total cost of operations while matching the output of Skanska's regular equipment.
“The system’s efficiency, safety, and environmental benefits are set to impact both customers and society at large." (Volvo CE Press Release)
The project involved developing new concept machines, work methods, and technology to form a complete site solution. Drawing on the electromobility and automation expertise of the Volvo Group, the research project, dubbed Electric Site, aims to use a negligible amount of diesel power in the stage electrification process. The system's efficiency, safety, and environmental benefits are set to impact both customers and society at large.
“This is the first time that anything like this has been attempted in the quarrying industry and, if successful, Electric Site could serve as a blueprint for transforming the efficiency, safety, and environmental impact of quarries around the world,” said Skanska Sweeden CEO Gunnar Hagman.
With Electric Site, Volvo CE and Skanska are challenging traditional ways of working in the quarrying industry. New technology encompasses machine and fleet control systems and logistic solutions for electric machines in quarries.
"We have had to completely rethink the way we work and how we look upon machine efficiency: pushing the boundaries of our competence," said Volvo CE President Melker Jernberg. "The total site solution we developed together with our customer, Skanska, is not a commercial solution for sale today, and we will evaluate the outcome of the tests, but we have learned so much already, elements of which will be fed into our future product development."
From Elephants to AntsThree rigid haulers have been replaced by eight smaller prototype HX2 autonomous, battery-electric load carriers to transport the material from the primary mobile crusher up to the secondary static crusher.
The protoype has advanced significantly since the HX1 was first shown to customers and members of the international press at the Volvo Exploration Forum in September 2016.
"The HX1 was our proof of concept. Once we knew it was feasible, we updated the design requirements for the HX2 to incorporate shared technologies and components from the Volvo Group, such as electric motors, batteries, and power electronics. Integrating a completely new drivetrain was crucial to take full advantage of the groundbreaking electromobility developments that are happening inside the Volvo Group. Another new feature is the addition of a vision system, which allows the machine to detect humans and obstacles in its vicinity." (Uwe Müller, Volvo CE Electric Site Chief Project Manager)
Electric UpgradeThe primary crusher on the Skanska site is loaded by the 70-ton dual-powered, cable-connected EX1 excavator prototype, which customers and press had not previously seen. The base machine for the EX1 is a Volvo EC750 model that has been upgraded to incorporate an electric motor in addition to the diesel engine.
"To fit the new components in the machine without increasing its size required a significant amount of repackaging work," Müller explained. "However, in terms of the operator interface and controls, nothing has changed; it's operated in exactly the same way as a conventional Volvo excavator. If the cable is connected, the machine will automatically start in electric mode. If it's not, it will start in diesel mode."
Müller continued, "Because the machine will be relatively static – only moving a few meters once or twice a day as the excavator works its way through the blasted rock – it's ideally suited as a fully electric machine on a cable. This has allowed us to make it a zero-emission excavator when it's plugged into the grid. However, we've designed it with flexibility in mind so that we have the option of using the diesel engine when it's needed: for example, to reposition the machine or quickly move it prior to blasting."
Strong & Silent
The LX1, Volvo CE's prototype electric hybrid wheel loader, organizes the piles of material onsite. The machine can deliver up to a 50-percent improvement in fuel efficiency, as well as significant reductions in emissions and noise pollution compared to its conventional counterparts. The LX1 is a "series hybrid" that incorporates a driveline that consists of electric drive motors mounted at the wheels, electric-driven hydraulics, an energy storage system, a significantly smaller diesel engine, and new machine architecture, including a new design of the lifting unit. It is this combination that enables the substantial gain in fuel efficiency.
The prototype, which has 98-percent new parts and a fundamentally new machine design, can do the work of a wheel loader that is one size larger.
Milestone InaugurationSenior executives from Volvo CE and Skanska celebrated the start of the test period on August 29 alongside other important dignitaries at an official inauguration ceremony.
Among the attendees were:
Martin Lundstedt, Volvo Group President & CEO
Melker Jernberg, Volvo CE President
Anders Danielsson, Skanska President & CEO
Gunnar Hagman, Skanska Sweden CEO
Mikael Damberg Sweden Minister of Enterprise & Innovation
Representatives from the Swedish Energy Agency, Linköping University, Mälardalen University, World Wildlife Foundation, the Swedish Aggregate Association, and the Swedish press also bore witness to this milestone occasion.
"It is exciting to finally see how the Volvo protoype machines work together along with the charging systems. I feel extremely proud to be part of this innovation – and to work closely with such talented colleagues at Volvo CE and Skanska," said Skanska Vikan Kross Quarry Production Manager Joakim Käpynen. "Electric Site proves that with cooperation and transparency throughout the entire value chain, you can really make a difference."
After the testing is complete, the tentative date of production and release of these machines into the North American Market will be determined. Stay tuned for updates.