Komatsu aims for lead in hydrogen-powered mining trucks

Nikkei -- Feb 22
Komatsu, Japan's top construction equipment maker, plans to develop hydrogen power as an alternative to diesel for heavy-duty mining dump trucks, in a first for the industry, Nikkei has learned.

The company will start its hydrogen development program in 2021 and aims to have the trucks ready for practical use by 2030.

This effort to bring hydrogen power, which has made inroads into buses and road trucks, to mining comes as Komatsu customers seek to strip as much carbon dioxide emissions as they can from their business.

Some mining trucks run on electricity from overhead power lines, but most are diesel-powered. Using hydrogen as a fuel has the benefit of letting zero-emissions trucks travel on routes where power lines do not reach.

Weighing 600 tons or more when loaded, mining trucks are huge even compared with buses. In terms of hydrogen power, they present a different level of technical challenges than everyday fuel cell vehicles.

Costs pose another hurdle. Komatsu plans to procure fuel cells for its hydrogen-powered trucks from outside suppliers. Fuel cell stacks used in electricity generation are expensive. But mass production is expected to bring down their prices if they are used in a broader range of applications.

Mining equipment accounts for roughly 40% of Komatsu's sales. The rival of U.S.-based Caterpillar and China's Sany has taken steps to make itself more competitive in this field, including its 2017 acquisition of American mining machinery maker Joy Global.

- Nikkei