Mining companies retrofitting 4WD drive vehicles with battery electric powertrains isn’t new, but the latest conversion of a LandCruiser 70 Series ute is noteworthy as it directly involves Toyota Australia.
The conversion was carried out by Toyota Australia's Product Planning and Development division in Port Melbourne as of part of real-world testing carried out in conjunction with mining giant BHP.
The small-scale trial will see the converted single-cab ute, which is equipped for underground mine use, operate under battery power alone at the BHP Nickel West mine in Western Australia.
Toyota is not divulging any technical information such as battery capacity or range ‘as this is a trial’, though it says more information will become available in coming months.
Interestingly, the pictures show it has a Type 2 charging port. Assuming that is the only socket on the vehicle this means it can only accept low-speed AC charging, which suggests either a low battery capacity and driving range, or long charging times.
BHP is already operating an electric LandCruiser 70 Series called the eCruiser, which was converted by Perth-based engineering firm Voltra and was initially trialled at its Olympic Dam site in South Australia in July 2018.
The eCruiser has a 42.24kWh battery capacity that can be charged in about an hour using a 50kW DC rapid charger. According to Voltra the vehicle involved in the BHP trial had a 80-100km range in mining conditions.
The benefits of a zero-emissions mining vehicle include a significant improvement in air quality for underground miners, as they don’t have to breathe in diesel exhaust particulate matter in the cramped confines of a mine.
Toyota Australia's president and CEO Matthew Callachor said the trial is another step Toyota is taking as part of its bigger picture of a zero emissions future, but did not elaborate on any plans to produce an all-electric ute.
"BHP and Toyota have demonstrated a strong relationship throughout the last 20 years, and this project is a great testament to how we can both work together as leading companies in our respective industries to change the future," Callachor said.
Edgar Basto, president of Minerals Australia, BHP said the partnership with Toyota is another step in the company's plan to reduce the emissions intensity of its light-vehicle and lower operational emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.
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