Spotlight on Electrification Pioneers: Epiroc

Is electrification a global trend in the mining industry? Epiroc‘s Head of Marketing Erik Svedlund discusses this and more in this interview.

Why is Epiroc betting on electrification?

The underground mining sector has one path to follow: electrification. The diesel equipment used today is increasingly polluting the air we breathe, causing a serious health hazard. Electric machines emit about 20 times less CO2 compared to diesel, for Epiroc sustainable underground mining is a clear goal.

The successful transition from a carbon economy to one based on renewables depends also on the materials used in the mining industry. We need to become as sustainable as possible to achieve the green transformation we want. As Epiroc is among the world’s largest OEMs, we have the responsibility to lead the industry into the future towards a zero-emission strategy.

Most minerals today are extracted using diesel equipment. We believe that this will change soon, and we are working to facilitate our customers to go fully electric. Our ambition is to use the world’s greenest battery cells to make the world’s greenest machines producing the world’s greenest metals.

Is electrification a global trend in the mining industry? Are some countries more advanced than others?

Europe is one of the stricter regions of the world when it comes to regulations: in 2023, the air quality regulations will tighten up more firmly. For this reason, Europe will probably be among the first to reach zero emissions in the mining industry. However it’s not only Europe, also other regions of the world see the benefits of switching to electrification.

Reducing the health hazards caused by underground particulates is seen as an urgent matter by the mining sector of North America. Also, we have customers in Peru working at very high altitudes: there, a diesel engine has a very poor performance due to low air pressure and oxygen levels, while machines powered by batteries have a good performance as they are not affected by high altitudes.

The drivers may be different according to the country, but it is evident that the interest in electrification is significant everywhere in the world.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, less than 1% of vehicles used in mining are currently battery-powered. How long will it take for this number to grow?

A very small percentage of machinery used today is electric. The main reason for this is that there are basically no products available. As soon as there is more supply on a large scale, electrification will be a very attractive alternative. I think that electrification will take over rapidly and that underground mining will be one of the first sectors to go all electric. I believe that more than 80% of the total sales in 2030 will be electric machines.

Is there an economic benefit coming from electrification?

Yes, the electrification of machines will have a very positive effect on the economy of the mines.

Underground mining is the only industry that uses internal combustion engines in very confined spaces. One of the biggest costs for a mine is ventilation, which heavily depends on the amount of air that needs to be pumped out. If we reduce the emissions underground, we reduce the ventilation, we reduce the energy required for it, and we have enormous economic savings.

Normally, mines move more air in weight than rocks. 60% of the total energy consumption of a mine, or the cost of energy, comes from ventilation. The deeper the mine is, the more electrification becomes important: zero-emission machines will make a huge difference economically.

What product have you launched today?

Today we have launched our second-generation battery electric machines . It’s a family of products based on a new battery technology that we have developed with Northvolt. On this platform, on this scalable technology platform, we can base all our future battery technology machines.

With this launch, we are addressing two problems: lowering carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and improving the overall health conditions of the mines by eliminating the use of diesel underground. We are in a unique position as we are the first OEM to develop its own battery system. That’s something we are very proud of.

Moreover, we will change our business model. Currently, machines powered by batteries are expensive, which prevents the adoption of zero-emission equipment. We decided that we will offer the battery as a service. Basically, we are cutting the battery price off the final cost of the machine. We are making easier for our customers to achieve their zero-emission goals.

Electrification, automation, and new business models are global trends now. With the launch of our second-generation battery electric machines, we are ticking off all the boxes.