MOUNTAIN LIFE - Blue Mountains | Spring 2021

14 UPFRONT COLIN FIELD On an overcast, windy, wet day in Grey County, two behemoths stand at the impromptu start line, ready to race. The bright-yellow Western Star 4900XD stands in sharp contrast to the mud, rubble and puddles. The faded, rusty red International HV sits beside the new truck. The elder statesman of the two, it’s a tried and true, dependable vehicle. Their dump boxes are both fully loaded with 20 metric tonnes of rock and dirt. Darren Mueller from Collingwood’s MEDATech Engineering Services, Ltd., stands in front of the trucks, checking with the drivers, making sure they’re ready. Then he raises his arms straight above his head and drops them to his sides. The trucks are off. Well, one of them is. The Western Star 4900XD explodes off the line, reaching its top speed of 42.5 kilometres an hour almost instantly, while the International lurches slowly forward, fumbling with gear changes and a lack of torque. With all due respect, it isn’t even a race. The Western Star absolutely smokes the other truck as it splashes through puddles and mud. So what’s the big deal? Well, this particular 4900XD is the only one on the planet. Guestimated by Mueller to be worth about $1.5 million, this—excuse the cliché—marvel of engineering is a massive undertaking and a major step forward in an industry looking to make changes. This 24-tonne all-electric haul truck features 310 kilowatt hours (kWh) of lithium ion batteries onboard.Toputthatinperspective,aTeslaModelS has an 85 kWH battery.The truck is fast-charging- ready and its electric motor has nearly double the torque of the standard diesel engine. It features regenerative braking, and while it’s currently configured as a dump truck it could also be a crane truck, a water truck, a winter plow truck or any other service-type vehicle. These massive dump trucks are often used in mining operations, loading and unloading in confined areas, running a mobile crane or delivering water. And while smaller electric vehicles are commonly used in mining operations, the larger vehicles are traditionally powered by diesel engines. MEDATech built this prototype in conjunction with Tardif Diesel, aWestern Star and Freightliner dealer in Quebec. “Like MEDATech, we are determined to be part of the electric revolution,” says Tardif’s president, Jean-Marc Tardif. “Together, we are at the vanguard of all-electric heavy-duty truck manufacturing, which is exactly where we want to be.” MEDATech is regularly asked about electrifying heavy vehicles for a range of industries—a big change in thinking. “The Arctic reached 104 degrees in July 2020, California and Australia were ravaged by forest fires. Industrial diesel engines are a major part of the global warming problem,” explains Robert Rennie, President of MEDATech. “We know it, our clients know it and a lot of them are looking at doing something about it, either because of regulation or because they want to be ahead of the curve.” While the $1.5 million price tag sounds deterring, the market-ready truck will be closer to $1 million. Prototypes are always more expensive. “The cost of the truck is more than double that of a diesel version, there’s no denying it,” says Rennie. “Battery technology with this kind of capability is still expensive. But while you’ll turn a diesel truck over in three to four years because of the motor and the brakes, the electric drives we build will last seven to ten years. And there’s far less maintenance. Regenerative braking lowers the toll on brake components, and electric motors are very simple and robust machines. When you buy electric, you have to realize that you are largely buying the fuel up front. When you factor this in, it takes out a lot of the sting.” MEDATech plans to build another 4900XD later this year for an application in British Columbia. It’ll be an on-highway version used for downhill hauls. Drivers will load at the top of a hill, then the trucks will regenerate energy through the brakes on the downhill leg. Then they’ll be able to drive back up the hill with minimal, if any, recharging required. On this grey day in Collingwood, the giant red International dumps its load and lines up once again with the fully loaded 4900XD. And as Darren Mueller drops his arms the race result is exactly the same. No contest. Everyone knew the electric vehicle was going to win the race; it was really just a formality, a case of big boys playing with big toys. But as the giant yellow truck whizzes quietly by, you can’t help but feel that something special is happening here. “What we are witnessing today is just the beginning of a wholesale change,” says Tardif. “The future is coming fast.” –Colin Field LEADING THE CHARGE &ROOLQJZRRG PDGH KHDY\ GXW\ HOHFWULF WUXFN SURWRW\SH VPRNHV WKH FRPSHWLWLRQb