Vattenfall, Volvo Trucks and ABB, as well as mining company, Kaunis Iron and Wist Last och Buss, recently set up a 300 km test in polar temperatures.

The aim of the test was to understand whether it is possible to replace diesel-powered transport of 14 tonne truckloads of iron ore ‘sludge’ with new electric trucks in an environment where mercury drops to -30C – and if so what electrical infrastructure it would require.

The Sweden-based experiment was held in the country’s uppermost region, in the Arctic Circle and lasted four weeks. It involved driving a battery-powered Volvo FMX truck from a base in Junosuando to the mine in Kaunisvaara and then unloading the cargo in Pitkäjärvi, where the ore was transferred to rail for onward transport to Narvik.

The overall trip encompassed 280km of frozen routes, which had until then only ever been navigated with diesel-powered vehicles.

Vattenfall was instrumental both as a supplier of electricity throughout the journey and, using its Power-as-a-Service solution, also provided the installation and operation of the charging stations.

Vattenfall says despite the extreme temperatures, which dipped to lows of -32C at points, the experiment exceeded expectations.

“The electric truck is in many ways equivalent to the one I would usually drive, as it’s the same type of cab, just easier to navigate, with one button to go back and forth,” said Lino Martino, one of the truck drivers who participated in the test. “This new truck is so quiet, you cannot hear the ‘engine,’ even when under heavy loads.

“And the vibrations are way less noticeable than with a diesel vehicle, so it’s without doubt a more convenient work environment to operate in.”

Nevertheless, Vattenfall notes challenges remain to be resolved. One is the battery’s range: it was necessary to take a break to charge the lorry, using charging infrastructure and power supplied by Vattenfall. This happened at both the mine and transfer station, in order to guarantee sufficient range to make the return leg of the journey.

“Now the basic premise of heavy hauling in extremely low temperatures has been proven, this experiment will function as a launchpad for future research to continue on developing more durable batteries and faster charging systems,” added a Vattenfall statement.