General Motors announced a new partnership with Japanese construction vehicle manufacturer Komatsu to build heavy-duty mining trucks powered by the automaker’s hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
The company will work with the Japanese firm to install its Hydrotec-branded “power cubes,” each containing 300 individual hydrogen fuel cells with an output of 80 kW of new power, into the mining trucks.
The amount of power needed for each truck will be immense. Komatsu’s 930E mining trucks weigh over 500 tons, are capable of generating 3,500 horsepower, and can carry a nominal payload of 320 tons.
The amount of power needed for each truck will be immense
Hydrogen fuel cells use compressed hydrogen as their fuel, releasing water vapor as its only emission. Though the technology has been under development for decades, GM has started scaling up its manufacturing operation in the hopes of creating a new business centered on mobile power generation and heavy duty vehicles powered by hydrogen.
Charles Freese, executive director of GM’s Hydrotec division, said that multiple fuel systems will be packaged in arrays that are capable of delivering “over 2 megawatts of power” in each truck.
“While batteries work really well for electrifying passenger vehicles or fleets that are localized, it’s not an effective solution for applications with extreme towing or the heaviest of payload requirements,” Freese added in a briefing with reporters.
GM has said it wants to use the cubes for a variety of appliances, including mobile generators, temporary EV chargers, and vocational vehicles such as terminal tractors and cement mixers.
GM and Komatsu plan on testing out a prototype truck at the latter’s proving ground in Arizona sometime within the next year or two. If they like the outcome, then they’ll get to work on a whole fleet. Mining trucks tend to operate at one location for their lifetime, making them good candidates for hydrogen power, with its limited fueling capacity.
Daniel Funcannon, VP for North America engineering at Komatsu, said the company was actively seeking partners to help install hydrogen fueling infrastructure at remote mining locations, calling it a “plus and a minus” for the future of hydrogen-powered trucks.
“The individual mines will require a relatively large quantity of hydrogen,” Funcannon added. “So obviously they’ll need to work on that supply at the mine site with local or regional suppliers.”