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Unlocking decarbonization for heavy-duty mobility with First Mode

First Mode's zero-emission mining truck

For the heavy-duty off-road sector, decarbonization of vehicles and fleets previously powered by diesel presents an imperative shift away from carbon emissions, to enable cleaner, sustainable operations. Ballard Power Systems, in partnership with global carbon reduction company First Mode, are aiming to drive the transition to zero-emission off-road mobility to produce hydrogen fuel cell-powered ultra-class mining trucks for commercial deployment.

Ballard and First Mode first partnered in 2019, collaborating on the world’s first 2-megawatt hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and battery powerplant. Continuing this successful enterprise, First Mode has now utilized Ballard’s fuel cell technology for heavy-duty vehicles, FCmove®-HD, to power its new hydrogen mining truck retrofit - which becomes the industry’s latest project transitioning to clean alternative solutions, advocating for zero-emission technology disrupting traditional platforms.

First Mode boasts a diversified product mix of retrofit power systems that extend the life of existing fleets with an integrated design that maximizes flexibility and interoperability. As part of the company's Path to Zero™ program, one of three decarbonized solutions - which includes battery electric and hybrid electric models as well as fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) - ensure smooth integration with existing fleet management systems, as well as providing staff training, fuel sourcing and security support, and regular maintenance.

First Mode FCEV

First Mode’s FCEV retrofit, powered by Ballard technology, has one 70kW fuel cell fitted on each side of the truck (highlighted green in image opposite), combining hydrogen from the tank with oxygen from the air to produce the electricity that powers the vehicle.

Initial implementation in a real-world vehicle saw the transition of the Komatsu 930E-4 ultra class haulage truck from diesel to the hydrogen fuel cell-powered nuGen™ Haulage Solution to support operations at global mining company Anglo American's platinum mine in Mogalakwena, South Africa. 

May 2023 marked successful completion of a full year of operational trials - demonstrating the vast potential of zero-emission haulage as a viable alternative to traditional drives. The truck's performance is a testament to the engineering innovation and technical viability of the FCEV, which, in the 12-month period, achieved zero-emission haulage logging 1,245 hours in operation. The truck has now been introduced into the mine's mixed commercial fleet which includes ore and waste haulage activities, and demonstrated performance parity with diesel trucks, operating under typical mining conditions with full payload capacity of 300 tons during pit runs. 

"First Mode's FCEV, powered by Ballard fuel cell technology, has been a tremendous success and exceeded performance on all significant tests - including travel speed and payload. Our proof-of-concept demonstrates not only the feasibility, but also the urgent need to scale our nuGen™ Haulage Solution to help the mining industry reduce its reliance on diesel."

Julian Soles CEO, First Mode

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Following the success of the nuGen™ trial, Anglo American has agreed to retrofit 40 more trucks at their Mogalakwena site, with zero-emission transition already underway. Ultimately, the technology is planned to be adopted by the full 400-truck global fleet, which would significantly contribute to Anglo American's emissions targets of 30% reduction by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2040.

First Mode is now focused on wider commercialization of the nuGen™ Haulage Solution - and three refueling systems are currently being tested and demonstrated on Komatsu platforms at the company's proving grounds in Seattle, U.S.