Anglo’s new hydrogen vehicle: bad engineering, good marketing

Anglo American unveiled the world’s most significant hydrogen-run mine haul truck at the Mogalakwena mine in Limpopo on Friday. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Day-to-day Maverick

Mine web site vehicles existing an unusually very good circumstance for photo voltaic energy for electric automobiles. A vehicle operating on a mine web-site operates for fastened, predictable several hours which removes the uncertainty all-around electricity storage to compensate for intermittent supply.

Mine web-site automobiles are also created on a gargantuan scale, which suggests that battery size is not the identical problem that it is for personal cars and trucks.

The most important benefit, nevertheless, is that mine web-site autos operate inside of a mounted area, never considerably from their charging station. All the big obstructions to individual electric vehicles are absent and so a mine web-site is probably the finest doable area to put in a established of photo voltaic panels to ability electric powered automobiles.

Anglo-American has gone a relatively diverse route by unveiling a mammoth 210-ton zero-emissions truck established to run on hydrogen created on-web page using solar energy. This is a relatively convoluted style and design choice, mainly because the general method starts and ends with electrical energy, with hydrogen just an energy provider for transfer and storage.

The thermal performance of electrolyzers (the procedures for generating hydrogen) tends to be in the region of 70%, and hydrogen fuel cells rarely achieve better than 60% efficiency. This puts the approximated over-all effectiveness of hydrogen at an abysmal 42%, with further losses likely included in compressing the hydrogen and leakage.

Hydrogen is much more or fewer the earth history holder for substances least most likely to remain where you place them, as it is able of permeating even by means of reliable metal. This identical assets also would make it remarkably corrosive, demanding that extremely specialised metal mixes be utilized, or that all elements are often rotated out of use for warmth therapy.

The presence of hydrogen on a internet site also alterations its security profile solely, as it has a broader explosive range than any regular fuels and, in order to match the electrical power density of a lithium-ion battery, has to be compressed to excessive pressures, ordinarily on the get of 300 bar but from time to time as superior as 700 bar. The latter is equivalent to the strain beneath a stack of bricks 3.5km tall, or anything like a whole ability Ellis Park group all crammed on to a one seat.

In small, the hydrogen spherical excursion, in this article, is an astonishingly highly-priced procedure for turning electricity into significantly less electrical power. If that total method had been taken off and changed with a sizeable charging cable, two or probably a few of the exact same trucks could be run by the exact same solar set up, and the cost of the whole venture would be lessened dramatically.

This total layout represents dreadful engineering decision-making and a single has to check out other motives that may be behind it. Of note is that Anglo-American’s major small business is in mining Platinum-Group Metals, the principal use of which is in catalytic converters on standard-gas automobiles. A worldwide change to electric powered automobiles offers an existential threat to the organization. By distinction, a hydrogen overall economy using platinum in the two the electrolysers and the gasoline cells, would guarantee Anglo a sizeable new sector.

The job has drawn wide political assist, with President Cyril Ramaphosa lauding it as a phase toward a hydrogen economic system.

Though this job could have been a landmark in our vitality transition, instead it have to provide as a warning of the worst opportunities for what our power changeover could be.

The author is a scientist in Wits University’s Chemical Engineering division.

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