The world’s largest hydrogen-powered truck was launched on Friday at a platinum mine in South Africa. Mining giant Anglo American, which unveiled the 220-tonne truck, said it is the first of a fleet that will replace the firm’s diesel-powered trucks, AFP reported.
The truck uses two-megawatt hydrogen fuel cells to haul up to 290 tonnes of ore, the outlet added. It was displayed at Mogalakwena mine, around 250 kilometers from Johannesburg. “What we are launching is not merely an impressive piece of machinery, it is the genesis of an entire ecosystem powered by hydrogen,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
29-year-old Alex Tumisang Lekgau knows that very well. He used eight months to train to use the truck, a vehicle that can be compared in size to a small house. The young South African is now the first licensed hydrogen truck operator in Africa and operator of the largest one in the world. Lekgau told SowetanLive that he was working as a diesel mechanical assistant at Mogalakwena when he got to know about the project in 2021.
He then volunteered to be the first to operate it. Lekgau was tested in August 2021 and also passed the global test to become the sole operator of the truck, which he also helped build. His tests included modules and simulation, according to SowetanLive.
“Being the first in Africa to operate and work on this machinery is a great opportunity to grow my career in the world of hydrogen operations. It is going to be the toughest exposure and experience for me because I have to make a lot of adjustments like getting familiar with the truck and utilising the new driving skills and being accustomed to the lifestyle,” he said.
Before he started work at Anglo American in 2018, Lekgau studied engineering at the Capricorn TVET College. “Before being licensed I was doing major repairs, cable routing and installation of various components. I was also encouraging safe work processes by issuing the correct protecting equipment to my colleagues and I also managed the storeroom and kept good housekeeping on site,” said Lekgau.
In the years to come, he would like to be a hydrogen truck safety facilitator to teach others how to use the machinery. For now, he is elated to be part of new technology.
“Working for engineering control techniques is a great feeling for me because I am meeting with goal-driven and hardworking people who are willing to help and are kind…that is why I am flexible with the working hours and know I am going to be with people who I love being with.”
By 2040, Anglo American said it hopes to be carbon neutral. “It will use solar power to provide the fuel, using the energy to split water into its component atoms of hydrogen and oxygen,” according to AFP.
“Over the next several years, we envisage converting or replacing our current fleet of diesel-powered trucks with this zero-emission haulage system, fuelled with green hydrogen,” CEO of Anglo American Duncan Wanblad said. “If this pilot is successful, we could remove up to 80% of diesel emissions at our open pit mines by rolling this technology across our global fleet.”
South Africa recently got help from the U.S., France, Germany, and Britain in its process to move to a low-carbon economy. The four wealthy nations pledged about $8.5 billion and technical assistance to help the country in this regard. The main focus of the deal signed in Glasgow in November last year during COP26 is to transform the country’s electricity generation system, reports said at the time.
The launch of the latest hydrogen-powered truck is, therefore, “a gigantic leap for South Africa’s hydrogen future economy,” Ramaphosa said.