Archives for Epiroc

A portfolio of green battery solutions

One technology, endless applications

 

Across global industries and society are hints of a dramatic shift in the way that we generate and consume energy.

 

Fossil fuel-based energy systems are destined for obsolescence. Electrification is set to transform our world away from pollution and the environmental burden of carbon fuels. Sustainability is increasingly a fundamental of annual corporate policies.

 

The future is brighter for these shifts. But with the emergence of clean renewable energy has arrived a need to innovate new solutions for electricity storage and use.

 

“Just like the internet transformed how we work, socialize and interact, moving beyond the internal combustion engine (ICE) to a world of electric sustainable power generation and consumption is a profound change for citizens and companies alike,” says Northvolt’s Chief Business Development Officer, Martin Anderlind.

 

“But old habits die slowly. Despite global warming and its threat to mankind, the only way to consistently and quickly make people change habits is offering a better alternative at a lower cost. Sustainable wind and solar energy and electric cars are doing just that. Today, the only missing piece of the puzzle is a cheap and efficient way to store and retrieve this energy.”

 

“This is where batteries come in, and with the enormous amounts needed for these two huge industries alone, as volumes go up, costs will go down and all other use-cases will – like ships at high tide – be carried along as well.”

 

For this, we need to think differently. To assure success, application of cutting-edge cell design and battery systems development must be met with a responsiveness to both industrial customers’ needs and the priorities that define our age.

 

“Energy systems aren’t transformed very often,” says Martin. “And with most of this massive transformation ahead of us, we need to think about not only how we can get from here to there in the fastest and cheapest way, but also how to do it in a smart, efficient, sustainable and socially ethical way.”

 

Northvolt arrived onto the industrial scene with all this in mind, and a fresh business model for battery manufacturing and commitment to sustainability.

 

Key to that model was adoption of a dual role as both cell manufacturer and battery systems developer. With this comes a unique position to leverage control over the complete development process of battery products.

 

Working in this way has led to an initial product portfolio from Northvolt – a selection of lithium-ion battery systems built to capitalize on the strengths of the technology tuned to customers’ unique needs.

 

“Twenty years from now we will look back and wonder why it didn’t happen much sooner.”

 

Battery buildings blocks

The landscape of products powered by batteries is vast and diverse, reaching far beyond electric vehicles – a situation prompting Northvolt to developing two kinds of battery solutions: standardized and custom.

 

Based on either cylindric or prismatic cells, Northvolt’s standardized battery products are built to varying scales as solutions that like building blocks can be assembled and integrated into third-party products or simply stand-alone as plug-and-play solutions.

 

Custom battery products, on the other hand, are built by Northvolt to specification of third-parties for integration into their own applications, such as construction equipment, ships and trains. Here too, customers will have the option to choose between cylindrical or prismatic cell formats as the most fundamental building blocks.

From cars to trucks to trains and tools

Supplying the European automobile industry with high-performance, green batteries has been a key motivator for Northvolt since its earliest days.

 

Asked what it is that’s going to make a real difference here, Martin, says: “Electrification of the auto industry really comes down to battery cell chemistry.”

 

“It is the heart of the electric vehicle in the same way as the combustion engine has defined vehicles for the past hundred years. Given the importance of cells, we are working closely with partners in the industry to tailor battery cells to suit exactly the kind of vehicle and customer experience desired.”

 

“This means optimizing solutions for specific vehicles, applications or market segments. For instance, heavy trucks or commercial vehicles may prioritize power or cycle life‚ whereas a regular passenger vehicle may value cost per kWh or fast charging .”

 

“To achieve this we invite our customers early and deeply into the design process. Doing this enables us to truly understand different market segment needs and provide optimized solutions,” says Martin, highlighting Northvolt’s partnership with Scania.

 

 

Battery cell development for the automotive industry will be undertaken at Northvolt Labs in Västerås, which serves as a platform for product research and industrialization of the custom cells Northvolt has already contracted to supply.

 

With its 350 MWh/year manufacturing line, Northvolt Labs will be capable of mimicking the full-scale manufacturing processes (albeit with less automation) planned for the Northvolt Ett gigafactory in Skellefteå.

 

A close bond between Northvolt and the vehicle industry is clear in the on-going work with world-leading mining giant, Epiroc, where we are delivering heavy-duty battery systems to power a pioneering fleet of underground mining vehicles. Reflecting versatility of these battery packs, the same systems used here (Badass Voltpacks) are slated to go into the world’s largest battery-powered vehicle on rails – a train being develop by Railcare.

 

Li-ion batteries will transform other sectors too.

 

“Power tools, home appliances, gardening equipment – shifting most of these over to batteries, going cordless, leads to great improvements and flexibility in many more areas than today.”

 

“Work will be safer – people and machinery can get entangled in cords and can injure themselves and others. More flexible and productive – freeing ourselves from a dependence on outlets nearby means that we can also look forward to increased flexibility, productivity and in many places lower cost. As long as you’re charged, you can work almost anywhere.”

 

“Today we generally accept that gas-powered machines are noisy and polluting. This has a big impact as this work can’t be performed in populated areas in early mornings or late evenings, or without great disturbance and associated health risks. But this changes with batteries. With silent, battery-driven machines, operators can increase uptime and flexibility and our streets will become quieter, cleaner, safer and much more pleasant.”

 

 

Supporting renewable energy

Considering the massive accumulated volume of cells required by all these different markets, there is every reason to embrace standardized products where it makes sense. Standardized products, while not suited to all circumstances, are perfectly fit for many.

 

Standardization means more common components. And more common manufacturing processes. Altogether, it means more efficient production and lowered costs of energy storage.

 

One market sector where Northvolt will be delivering standardized battery solutions is the electricity grid, where they will be used to support renewable energy generation and use.

 

“Grid energy storage perform a number of different services, in order to keep our grids operating and in balance,” explains Martin.

 

“To accommodate this, Northvolt offers a family of grid products that can serve multiple services and revenues streams, while supporting the ongoing transition more renewable solar and wind energy generation, handling increased power peaks or simply back-up crucial industrial loads.”

 

Just as different vehicles carry different requirements, so do stationary energy storage systems.

 

“Our lineup of standard products range from modular building blocks such as the High Voltblock to packs, racks and complete solutions such as the Life Voltrack – built to fit specific grid requirements and which can be scaled to meet various project needs.”

 

Smart, collaborative design

Across these sectors, Northvolt’s control of each step of the manufacturing process of battery cells and products means expert teams working in-house on everything from initial concept and design, through prototyping, validation, certification and into serial production.

 

As Martin says: “With deep vertical integration from raw material preparation and active material, to cell development and system design, Northvolt has unique competences and advantage in designing, developing and manufacturing solutions to fit specific application needs. That we are also working in close collaboration with customers to design and refine products for their different and unique end-uses simply adds further depth to an already holistic strategy.”

 

Breaking new ground: the Northvolt-Epiroc partnership continues

The Northvolt-Epiroc partnership continues to chart a pioneering course as it works towards electrification of the mining industry.

As one of its earliest partners, Epiroc represents a key industrial ally to Northvolt in pursuit of its mission to enable a cleaner energy future.

 

With the partnership providing a platform from which to develop battery-powered underground vehicles, the companies have been making swift progress over the last six months.

 

Northvolt caught up with Epiroc’s Head of Marketing – Rocvolt Business Development, Erik Svedlund, to hear about the state of affairs and his outlook on the work in play.

 

“We are witnessing enormous momentum for electrification of vehicles, and it’s growing every day. Our industry has been one of the first to wake up, but others are catching up and moving towards electrification.”

 

Underground mining – home territory for Epiroc – has been moving especially quickly towards zero-emissions explained Erik, in large part because of the problematic aspects to diesel engines operating underground.

 

As Erik notes, mines move more tonnes of air than rock: “Ventilation is actually one of the single largest energy consumers of a mine. With costs associated with ventilation so high, eliminating diesel exhausts means we can reduce the need for ventilation and lower a mine’s operating costs by a considerable amount. That’s the fundamental business case we’re working with.”

 

Ventilation to handle exhaust emissions and pollution is a major driver, but reducing heat and noise are also great benefits of battery-powered vehicles. “A cleaner, quieter working environment is a safer working environment,” as Erik says.

 

Read an earlier interview with Erik at Northvolt Spotlight on Electrification Pioneers: Epiroc.

 

A solid partnership securing meaningful outcomes

Through the partnership, Northvolt has developed a standard offering based on the requirements from Epiroc. Multiple battery systems have already been delivered, and as the work continues important milestones approach.

 

Oscar Fors, President for Northvolt Battery Systems, who leads the team that is designing and building the battery systems, comments: “Our joint efforts to build a modular system fit for purpose to Epiroc’s mining machines has resulted in significant learnings for us as a battery systems company.”

 

Continuing, Oscar says: “By meeting the highest functional and safety standards required by the demanding environment in an underground mine, we have developed a standard solution that can meet most industrial customer’s needs as well.”

 

Remarking on the collaboration, Erik notes: “When we decided to go with Northvolt, we were well aware of it being a new company, with ambitions to establish a new technology. But we’ve seen that Northvolt has the right competences, and the right people to deliver. Our belief in Northvolt has increased over the years, and so far it’s delivered on promises.”

 

Refining a modular approach

Recognizing the challenges that go with establishing novel, disruptive technology, Epiroc and Northvolt have embraced an open-minded, exploratory position towards the partnership.

 

“Both companies are learning together,” says Erik. “When we started talking there was no battery system, and we didn’t know about the kinds of battery cells to be produced or many other key details. But we worked towards a modular solution for our systems which brings flexibility for how it can be implemented into various platforms.”

 

The solution settled upon by Northvolt and Epiroc is built around a generic, heavy-duty subpack which may be connected in varying configurations within a battery system to meet the particular requirements of various platforms.

 

“A generic subpack, built with modularity and scalability in mind is the best approach. Modularity drives volume, and volume is required to reduce costs,” says Erik.

 

Of the battery systems delivered to date, several have been integrated into fully operational battery-powered machines now deployed for test and verification.

 

Epiroc’s Scooptram ST14 Battery – a fully battery electric loader with 14-tonne capacity

 

Representing a glimpse into what future mining will look like, this prototype fleet includes battery-powered drill rigs, loaders and trucks – vehicles featuring from two to five subpacks.

 

The fleet includes the MT42 underground truck which boasts a 42-tonne load capacity – making it the largest battery-operated minetruck on the market.

 

As part of the SIMS Innovation project funded by the EIT RawMaterials, the world’s largest innovation community in the minerals, metals and raw materials sector, later this spring the machines will be taken into commercial operation in the Kittilä gold mine in Finland – something that Erik describes as a first major test for the new battery-powered machines.

 

Commenting on Northvolt-delivered battery systems to date, Erik said: “Epiroc machines are high-performance machines. With the new battery system we are right on par with best systems and battery packs in the world today, and as battery cell technology improves so will the performance of our machines.”

 

 

Laying new tracks

Taking a step back from Northvolt’s delivering battery systems to Epiroc, the Northvolt-Epiroc partnership is having consequences that reach beyond mines.

 

Since the rationale and business case for bringing batteries into mines to combat emissions applies equally well to other sectors, suppliers of industry vehicles for urban and tunnel work are beginning to fix their own sights on the value of electrification.

 

Indeed, electrification of subway service equipment has become an early activity of Epiroc’s new division, Rocvolt.

 

“We’ve grown more confident in the future of battery technology for industrial sectors, and we’re pushing further with our ambitions,” explains Erik.

 

“With Rocvolt we are focusing on the extending the battery business activities of Epiroc and will be working with other OEMs to bring batteries to new sectors. Again, it’s about increasing battery system volumes and creating standards – a key goal of both Northvolt and Epiroc.”

 

The first such initiative is already underway with Swedish rail specialist, Railcare, with which Epiroc is collaborating to equip its railway maintenance equipment with zero-emission battery technology based off of Northvolt battery systems.

 

“With Railcare, we signed our first cooperation with another OEM where we will share technology developed for underground machines. The reason for this is to drive volumes and strengthen electrification. I think we will see more of these kinds of partnership in the future.”

 

“The system we’re building with Railcare will be a world-first. I’ve never seen a non-marine related battery system of this size or power.”

 

Read about Railcare’s pursuit of the world’s largest battery powered vehicle.

 

 

Building the world’s largest battery-powered vehicle

As the value proposition and benefits of battery-enabled electrification spread to new industries, novel solutions are emerging.

 

In one of the more recent developments, Swedish railway industry provider, Railcare, has launched a world-first project to deliver a zero-emissions, battery-powered railway maintenance vehicle.

 

“We want to be at the forefront of innovation, and this project, built around partnership with Epiroc, represents that ambition,” said Daniel Öholm, CEO Railcare Group AB.

 

Outlining the origins of the project, Daniel commented that the work began two years ago.

 

“We began to think about what would be the next generation for our machines; how will they work, how will they look, and what can they do differently? We worked on this for some time, but in the end the outcome became clear when we looked towards the switch to a battery-powered drivetrain.”

 

Although replacing diesel-powered engines with electric represents a major change for Railcare, Daniel believes it reflects a clear and decisive response to the current and future circumstances that the company faces.

 

“A large amount of our activities involve work underground in urban environments. Here, if you work with diesel engines, you encounter a lot of issues with exhaust emissions that can be tackled through electrifying our systems.”

 

“With batteries we can also reduce our carbon footprint, and that’s something our customers were asking for. It’s really the start of an exciting new chapter for railway industries.”

 

The solution

The ambitions crystallized into work to develop a prototype zero-emission Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) which can support a variety of Railcare’s maintenance tools, including snow melters and machines for handling ballast (ballast feeders and ballast removers).

 

“The self-propelled MPV was the natural place to begin testing out such a novel concept,” said Daniel, adding that with it Railcare can work towards testing how batteries might power the additional tools that the MPV can support.

 

 

To realize the MPV, Railcare have teamed up with Epiroc, a world-leader in mining and infrastructure industries and a Northvolt partner.

 

Epiroc holds unmatched experience in electrification of heavy industry vehicles and is providing its electric driveline technology and battery technology platform, built around Northvolt battery systems, to Railcare for development of the MPV.

 

The collaboration is the first to be run through Epiroc’s new subdivision committed to advancing battery-powered machinery, Rocvolt.

A render of the battery-powered Railcare MPV, with battery systems to be built by Northvolt (click to enlarge).

 

Since Epiroc’s line-up of battery-powered systems was designed with the mining industry in mind it is well-matched to Railcare’s vision.

 

“Mines and railways can be similarly tough environments to work in, and Epiroc have the experience required to deliver a physically robust product that is built for high-power requirements of heavy industry operations,” explained Daniel.

 

Of the partnership, Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining & Infrastructure, stated: “We are happy about this cooperation with Railcare as it is a natural step for Epiroc to collaborate around the technology that we have developed for our underground equipment.”

 

“Cooperating with forward-thinking companies around the battery technology is important to drive volume and reduce costs. This will speed up the electrification process.”

 

“We’re going to be the first to get a battery-powered system on the railway.”
Daniel Öholm, CEO Railcare Group AB

 

Epiroc’s battery-electric technology is built around a modular platform, which means it can readily be scaled up to meet particular system power requirements.

 

Ulf Marklund, co-founder and Executive Vice President of Railcare explained: “The MPV will come installed power of over 1000 kWh. We believe that MPV will be the first and largest battery-powered vehicle on the railway.”

 

“The MPV is built on a 20m long railway wagon and has two drive shafts for its own operation on the workplace. The prototype is equipped with three vacuum pumps, which allows one to connect a material container and use MPV as a Railvac (vacuum cleaner). However, the MPV could of course be used as a towing vehicle for ballast carriage, snow plow, etc.”

 

Daniel added: “The project represents a big challenge, but we’re using a well-developed platform with Epiroc and that’s a great source of confidence.”

 

Development in Skellefteå

Development of the Railcare MPV is already underway at the company’s workshop at Skellefteå harbor, northern Sweden, and Daniel reports that the company anticipates the initial phase of prototype development will be completed in late autumn ahead of a period of testing and validation.

 

“Battery-powered drivetrains have been proven on other systems in other industries, but we need to proceed through that for ourselves. We’re in front of innovation as we want to be, and confident with the partners we have in Epiroc and Northvolt.”

 

Though trialling the MPV prototype will take place in Sweden, Daniel is convinced that the solution will be attractive in other markets too: “These are universal problems we’re tackling, and the solutions can be applied anywhere.”

 

Altogether, Railcare envisions the project establishing an industry concept for an entirely battery-powered system capable of ballast removal and ballast placement – something Daniel describes as a core activity of the rail industry.

 

“By introducing a successful concept in this area, we hope to set a new standard in technology and sustainable thinking within the industry. I truly believe this is the future for railway industry machines and I think that when others see these new technologies working, they won’t want to go back. It’s a challenge, but it’s the future I’m quite sure about that.”