Tech Talk

A rumble underground


Electric trucks are well and truly here. And the gears of change are grinding loudest far below us, in the mines of Australia.

As the pressure mounts for low- or zero-carbon alternatives, exploration companies have begun moving away from their traditional diesel-powered truck fleets in the hope of attracting investors and increasing takeover potential.

Plus, in the long-term at least, truck EVs offer considerable cost savings, since by 2030, the lifetime cost of battery and fuel cell EVs will be 20 per cent and 10 per cent less, respectively, than diesel trucks.

Already, a lot of earth has been moved with electric help. In March 2021, iron ore magnate Andrew Forest of Fortescue Metals partnered with Williams Advanced Engineering to design a prototype for a 240-tonne electric truck prototype.

While in November 2021, US gold explorer Newmont partnered with Caterpillar to test-run its first underground EV Trucks, with which Newmont intends to equip Australia’s Tanami gold mine by 2026. 

Then there’s the ‘Charge On Innovation Challenge’, founded by BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale SA: a push to innovate new mine electrification technologies, with a focus on electric trucks.

BHP has already invested in electric Landcruisers for its South Australian Olympic Dam site, a pilot program that’s been continued into its giant Western Australian operations.

The knock-on effects of all this ‘underground’ activity have been working their way above ground. Just five years after the Australian vehicle industry ground to a halt, in October 2021 the first Australian-made electric truck rolled off SEA Electric’s production line in Melbourne.

SEA’s first buyer is WA mining company Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN), which is using the 8.5 tonne SEA 300-85 to great effect, for transporting materials between mine sites. The truck boasts a 138kWh battery powering a 1,500Nm motor with a potential range of 300km.

But the SEA300-85 isn’t just geared for transporting mining supplies, it’s also well-equipped for temperature-controlled freight.

It’s also just one in a full range of pure EVs, from 4.5-tonne trucks to 22.5-tonne three-axle rigid transporters, distributed through a network of 12 dealerships around Australia.

Since moving its headquarters to Los Angeles, SEA Electric has been delivering truck EVs both under- and overground in the US, New Zealand, South Africa and Indonesia; even Thailand, where progressive companies like Pan Asia Metals (ASX:PAM) are busy exploring battery and critical metals for a green energy future.

Suffice to say, the underground rumble of electric trucks has made its way to the surface.

And we can expect to hear a lot more on our roads.

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