Partnership to Produce Five Fuel Cell Mine Locomotives

14 Feb 2012

Amplats Dishaba mine

Vehicle Projects Inc. (VP) of Golden, Colorado, USA, and Anglo American Platinum Limited (Amplats) of Johannesburg, South Africa, are collaborating on a project to build five fuel cell mine locomotives to be demonstrated in mid-2012 at Amplats’s Dishaba underground mine in Limpopo province, South Africa.

“The purpose of the innovative vehicles is to mine platinum in a more economical, energy-secure, and environmentally-benign manner,” said Dr Arnold Miller, president of Vehicle Projects Inc. “The locomotives will not require any electricity from the grid to function, and will not emit any noxious gases.”

VP, as prime contractor, is executing engineering design, fabrication, and testing of the fuel cell power plant and reversible metal hydride storage system in its state-of-the-art facility in Golden.

VP’s hybrid fuel cell power plant employs Ballard proton exchange membrane fuel cell FCvelocity ® -9SSL V4 stacks and K2 Energy lithium-ion batteries. Continuous fuel cell net power is 17 kW, and together with the traction battery, maximum net power is 45 kW for approximately 10 minutes. The power plant will fit within a 0.1 m3 box, and the volume of the power plant plus battery is 0.5 m3. Low-temperature waste heat from the power plant is the source of energy to store, release, and distribute hydrogen in the vehicle.

The VP-designed reversible metal-hydride storage unit provides hydrogen-dense, energy-efficient, ultra-safe storage of hydrogen for underground operations. It is designed to store 3.5 kg of hydrogen (50 kWh electrical output at the fuel cell) and be refuelled underground from 20 bar hydrogen in 10 to 20 minutes. During refueling, either waste mine water or ambient mine air will cool the hydride bed. Operating hydrogen pressure is only 10 bar gauge. The storage unit will fit within a 0.3 m3 box.

The entire power-dense locomotive power module – fuel cells, batteries, hydride storage, cooling system, and power electronics – requires only 1 m3 of volume.

Mine loco

Upon completion of testing of the power module (expected in March to April 2012), the unit will be shipped to VP’s locomotive project partner Trident South Africa (Pty) Ltd in Johannesburg, South Africa, for integration into a Trident 10 ton New Era locomotive. Integration, locomotive testing, and demonstration, initially at the Trident surface test track, will be assisted by VP’s project partner Battery Electric (Pty) Ltd of Johannesburg.

Amplats is funding the project and will serve as the end user of the developed fuel cell mine locomotives. Amplats is a member of the Anglo American PLC Group and is the world’s leading primary producer of platinum group metals. Its platinum mining, smelting, and refining operations are based in South Africa.

Vehicle Projects Inc. develops turnkey prototype fuel cell vehicles that solve problems of environmental quality or energy security. It is well known for developing and demonstrating the world’s largest hydrogen fuel cell land vehicle, a 130 t railway locomotive.

Source: Vehicle Projects Inc

Image (top): A view across Dishaba Mine (Source: Amplats)

Image (above): Graphic rendering of the fuel cell loco (Source: Vehicle Projects)

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