World-first electric triple road train launches in SA

road train

NSW-based start-up Janus Electric has partnered with mining giant OZ Minerals and Qube to trial the world’s first electric triple road train in South Australia.

The converted Volvo FH16 8×6 prime mover will be put to work from May carting the equivalent of three shipping containers of copper concentrate from the OZ Minerals Carrapateena mine to the Whyalla port, 165km away.

Initially the truck, with a Volvo 12-speed gearbox, 720hp, 2500Nm of torque, and 620kW hours of battery, will do two to three rotations on the day shift.

But is expected to be running 24/7 when all routes open up, and drivers are trained and up to speed, Janus Electric CEO Lex Forsyth told Big Rigs from the launch of the Vision Electric project at Adelaide Airport.

“It’ll be towing a triple road train with tri-dollies, so three tri-axle trailers and two tri-dollies behind it, so grossing out at about 160-tonne, the equivalent of what diesel vehicles are carrying,” he said.

“It’s the heaviest rated on-road electric truck in the world.”

The truck will make use of a purpose-built charge and change battery station at Port Augusta, and is expected to get 200-400km on a single charge.

Battery change-over can be completed in the same time it takes for traditional refuelling, with the bulk of the electricity coming from renewable energy.

“For the governments looking at this who have all being drinking the hydrogen Kool-Aid, to be able to see that there’s a 170-tonne rated tri-drive prime mover that will tow a triple road train is just starting to dispel some of those myths around battery electric vehicles.”

Forsyth said it’s great to have partners like Oz Minerals and Qube for the triple road train trial.

“We’ve called the project Vision Electric for a reason; it’s taken the vision of all three companies to come together to get this to work.

“We’ve got two partners there who have put their money where their mouth is and said, ‘Look, we want to be part of this, we want to lead this technology, and we want to be the first to market.”

OZ Minerals CEO and MD Andrew Cole said: “We aim to reduce our emissions by 50 per cent by 2027 and achieve net zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 2030. This trial is part of our investment to find pathways to these reductions.”

Forsyth said Janus is already fielding inquiries from other companies in the region who are looking to follow the example being set in the mining sector.

“I think we could easily see somewhere between 50 to 100 trucks operating in South Australia using this network in the Upper Spencer Gulf.”

The cost of converting diesel trucks to Janus Electric technology ranges from $150,000-$200,000, depending on the spec of the vehicle, said Forsyth.

He said it’s safe to assume operators will save between 10-30 per cent in costs when compared with the diesel-powered equivalent.

“It’ll vary on range and operating conditions and what you’re towing and rolling resistance, those sorts of things. It’s going to be very much a case of horses for courses.”

The triple road train unveiling is the latest in a series of milestones for Forsyth and Janus after the recent world-first trial of a converted Western Star tipper in Brisbane and the start of an Australian-first trial of an electric logging truck at Fennel Forestry in Mount Gambier, SA.

Forsyth is confident of conquering the next frontier – a Brisbane to Sydney network of charge and change stations for electric trucks and B-double combinations – by the end of 2023.

“We’re starting to step into our stride now,” said Forsyth. “We know we’ve got the technology and the know-how and the will and the ability to deliver, and this is just demonstrating what we can do here in Australia, leading the world in this technology and engineering across the transport sector.”

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