AVOLTRA eCruiser light electric vehicle – based on the Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series – is currently being trialled at BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam site in South Australia, before it joins the company’s underground fleet of light vehicles in July.

The Voltra eCruiser is a 70 Series Land Cruiser that has had its innards removed – diesel engine, exhaust system, fuel tank, radiator, snorkel and other enginerelated components – and replaced with battery boxes and lithium cells to create a 4WD with zero emissions.

“Charging time is less than one hour when charged with the Voltra fast charger,” Voltra’s Project Manager, Andrew, told 4X4 Australia. “The expected range is 80-100km in mining conditions.”

The benefits of a zero-emissions mining vehicle are obvious, with the most notable being the improved air quality for underground workers, as they don’t have to breathe in diesel exhaust emissions and particulate matter in the confines of a mine.

Not only will the eCruiser improve greenhouse gas emissions and the quality of life for miners, there are added benefits associated with the changes.

According to Andrew, the benefits include: “Less maintenance due to less moving/wearing parts; [a] saving on diesel usage and storage; less heat and noise; greater operator comfort; and less stress on the driveline due to a smoother power delivery than the diesel engine.”

The electric motor also acts as a regenerative brake, and the eCruiser minimises the risk of fire when transporting flammable fuels.

The long-term benefits of battery power may see a reduction in both overall costs and a mining company’s carbon footprint.

BHP started its trial with the electric Land Cruiser in June, 2018, where it is undergoing final testing before joining the company’s 240-strong underground fleet in July. A second vehicle is expected to join the fleet later in the year.

In a post on the BHP Olympic Dam Facebook page, the company said: “It will be monitored for performance, power supply, maintenance requirements, charging time and corrosion resistance underground. The data we collect will be shared across BHP to help accelerate the broader deployment of electric light vehicles.”

BHP Olympic Dam has included the eCruiser in its fleet, “as part of a company-wide trial aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, exposure to diesel particulate, and costs across our global organisation”.

BHP says a decision on wider deployment at Olympic Dam is expected to be made during the upcoming financial year.

BHP isn’t the only mining company in the crosshairs of Voltra, with Andrew telling us that several other mining companies and contractors are looking to implement the eCruiser in the future.

What about other industries? “While this vehicle can be adapted to be used in other industries, Voltra is focusing on the mining industry,” Andrew said. “If demand increases we will look to build a vehicle to suit the requirements of the other industries.”

But, for now, Voltra is focusing its attention on the mining industry, with grand plans in store for the Autoline brand. “We are aiming to convert every mining vehicle in Australia and internationally,” Andrew said.