Fortescue kills the last Doomer myth

You know that tired old Doomer myth that ‘every wind turbine and solar panel ever built was made with oil?’ It’s a fair enough historical comment. But the Doomer means something more. The Doomer acts like oil is this magical, energy dense material that nothing but nothing can mimic. They sing songs of praise to it’s magical energy density. (Which it had to have or we wouldn’t have used it in an Internal Combustion Engine – one of the worst ways to waste energy! Only a tiny fraction of all that oil energy ends up as forward motion!)

Alice Friedman wrote the Doomer classic When trucks stop running – a real Doomer analysis that predicted trucking would be the Achilles heel of the modern world as nothing but nothing could replace oil. Now Tesla have released their Semi. If the driver just plugs the truck in to fast charge during his legally required half hour lunch break, the Tesla Semi already has more range than the driver is legally allowed to do in one shift! Not only that but Australia came up with the Janus battery swap system where any truck under 10 years old can get a conversion to full EV. Only this one doesn’t charge. Drive the truck in and a guy in a forklift does a quick 4 minute battery swap. The best bit? They can run up to 10 trucks just from solar panels on the warehouse roof! Sorry Alice Friedman – but your Doomer book is nonsense. EV trucks have arrived – and are just going to get better from here on in.

But now we come to the last great Doomer myth to die. “Every solar panel ever built was made with oil – and therefore MUST BE FOREVER!” Um, yeah. That last bit is nonsense. The undeniable history is that fossil fuels helped accelerate the Industrial Revolution. But there are a variety of ways to move forward from here. And now it sounds like Fortescue has finally got sick of the high diesel prices and are going electric! Meet the world’s first T 264 electric mining truck! It’s early days – but at least they’re experimenting with this behemoth EV.

As New Atlas reports – it has a 1.4 Mega Watt Hour battery pack.

…1.4-MWh prototype battery that’s heading for a 240-tonne electric mining haul truck developed in partnership with Liebherr, and will begin testing later in the year… The battery has now arrived at Fortescue’s workshop in Perth, and is actually made up of eight individually cooled sub packs, each containing 36 battery modules.

When assembled, the power pack measures a whopping 3.6 x 1.6 x 2.4 m … It’s reported to be the first mining haul truck battery with energy storage of 1.4 MWh, and is also the first capable of fast-charging in just 30 minutes. A regenerative braking system will also recoup energy as the truck moves downhill.

It’s not alone. Caterpillar are also running this prototype.

But it’s not like there aren’t other ways to do electric mining. 😉

It’s beyond the scope of this post, but there are also ways to do green steel, electric arc furnaces, Thermal Energy Storage with industrial applications that are storing ever higher temperatures with new materials, and even hydrogen boosting of industrial heat. They want to replace coal and gas in not just heating but also smelting – replacing coking coal with hydrogen as the reductant. Bit by bit progress is being made on all these fronts.

John Deere already have a Sci-Fi looking all electric tractor – and has some cool tricks that older petrol tractors couldn’t dream of. It will park your driving capsule on the side of the field while it goes to work on the field – with you watching from the side.

Oh – and worried that you might not have enough juice in a battery electric tractor? Want to work around the clock from the mains? Ok – now I’ve seen everything. This is a combine harvester with an 3km extension cord to plug into the mains. Not only that, but it operates in a swarm of 5 harvesters together back and to the side diagonally. It cannot run over the extension cord as the cord truck runs at the rear to the side.

The ideas are there. Some are whacky, and need a bit of time being tested in the marketplace. Some are great – and have even more potential. And new battery chemistries are being tested all the time. Aluminium doped with graphite? Lithium sulphur with 5 times the energy density? Who knows what will replace today’s LFP? There are so many new approaches I expect improvements. Maybe even the combine harvester above will be battery driven one day. Meanwhile, regular EV’s are at 9% of all car sales and growing. Bit by bit we are replacing oil. And as we start to solve climate change and clean up the air, we’ll all breathe a little easier.

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5 Responses to Fortescue kills the last Doomer myth

  1. mikestasse says:

    In your dreams. For starters, ALL those tonka trucks are electric already and have been for years. It’s just that they use a diesel engine to generate the electricity. All these new trucks do is use electricity from batteries generated somewhere else less efficient. And on top of that, all they do is accelerate resource depletion. Oh and where will the oil come from to replace the worn out tyres? And how will those tyres be transported from where they’re made to the distant mines?


    • Eclipse Now says:

      “somewhere else less efficient”

      It gives a distant off-grid mine the opportunity to use onsite wind and solar. You’re diverting attention away from that potential – just like you’re ignoring the efficiency of Janus charging 10 trucks from the warehouse roof. Rather than driving expensive diesel up to the mine, they’ll install heaps of super-cheap solar and leave it there for 30 years.

      “accelerate resource depletion”

      I’m honestly not sure what you mean? Every lithium and silicon and iron atom ever mined for renewables is still on the planet. We just have to get better at recycling.

      “oil come from to replace the worn out tyres”

      “A company called Genencor had a project with Goodyear during which they found a way to generate natural isoprene. They took plants such as corn cobs, switchgrass, and corn and used E. coli bacteria to break down their cellulose-based sugars. The result was natural isoprene and very few toxic waste products. This way, they have demonstrated an environmentally-friendly process.”

      “And how will those tyres be transported from where they’re made to the distant mines?”

      Tesla Semi or Janus.

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