Hydrogen fuel cells for massive mining trucks

By Mike Brezonick01 March 2023

Ballard Power Systems and First Mode, a global supplier of clean energy solutions, announced a purchase order for Ballard to supply First Mode with 30 hydrogen fuel cell modules totaling 3 MW to power several hybrid hydrogen and battery ultra-class mining haul trucks.

“Every one of the Ballard fuel cell modules that First Mode retrofits into an ultra-class haul truck means an immediate reduction in diesel fuel use and moving the mining industry another step closer to decarbonization,” said Julian Soles, First Mode CEO. “We’re excited to continue to innovate with Ballard. Utilizing hydrogen and battery technology in our nuGen systems allows our customers to achieve the best haul truck performance and range without sacrificing availability.”

Ballard fuel cells for haul trucks First Mode has ordered 30 Ballard fuel cell systems that will be used to power ultra-class mining haul trucks. (Photo: CNW Group/Ballard Power Systems)

The 30 Ballard hydrogen fuel cell modules will be integrated into clean energy powerplants built by First Mode in Seattle, Wash., and installed into ultra-class haul trucks to be operated at First Mode’s Proving Grounds in Centralia, Wash. The trucks are estimated to save 2600 tons of diesel fuel each year.

“We are excited to expand our important collaboration with First Mode,” said David Mucciacciaro, Ballard’s chief commercial officer. “The mining industry annually contributes up to 7% of the world’s carbon emissions and roughly half of these emissions comes from mobile diesel applications, including haul trucks. Together with First Mode, we are continuing to demonstrate a viable pathway to decarbonize mining trucks by using Ballard’s leading hydrogen fuel cells. These additional truck deployments highlight the opportunities ahead for fuel cell commercialization in hard-to-abate sectors.”

First Mode is now working to scale production for the next generation of clean energy powerplants. In January, the company entered into a global supply agreement with Anglo American to retrofit over 400 ultra-class haul trucks with First Mode’s nuGen technology, including fuel cell and battery powerplant and related infrastructure. The Ballard fuel cells will be integrated into the next several powerplants built by First Mode.

First Mode and Ballard first partnered in 2019 to supply fuel cells for a 2 MW hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and battery powerplant designed and built by First Mode in Seattle. The clean energy powerplant replaced a diesel engine on a 300-ton Komatsu 930E-4 ultra-class haul truck that is currently operating at Anglo American’s Platinum Group Metals mine site in Mogalakwena, South Africa.

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