Clean Green Electric Machine

Clean Green Electric Machine

September 28, 2010
A custom-made 4 x 4 for the mining industry
Zoom

A custom-made 4 x 4 for the mining industry
Sabin Tremblay

A small Jeep-like truck that runs entirely on an electric battery may soon offer a cleaner alternative to the diesel vehicles currently used to transport people and tools deep into Canada’s mines.

The four-passenger vehicle, which can hold up to 225 kilograms of cargo, was recently developed with the help of Institut du transport avancé du Québec (ITAQ), a research centre affiliated with Cégep de Saint-Jérôme, north of Montréal, which specializes in sustainable transportation technologies. “The idea for the truck came from one of our clients, who realized, after speaking with mine operators, that some of the major costs of running a mine are linked to the ventilation system,” says François Adam, a project manager and an electrical engineer at ITAQ. A lot of energy is wasted exchanging air polluted by diesel emissions from vehicles used in the mines, so ITAQ aimed to design an electric vehicle that could reduce pollutants.

PEDNO, a Saguenay, Quebec-based company that manufactures and repairs equipment for the forestry and construction industries, approached the engineers at ITAQ in September 2009 to develop the truck’s electric traction system and provide other technical assistance. The vehicle prototype, made of lightweight aluminum, was tested at ITAQ’s advanced propulsion laboratory before undergoing trials in mountainous terrain, and this fall, it will be tested in a mine.

“ITAQ has incredible expertise in electric powertrains,” says Sabin Tremblay, a senior designer and project manager at PEDNO. “Its staff helped us find the best technologies to suit our needs, and they continue to provide technical support as we make adjustments to the vehicle.”

PEDNO’s electric vehicle is the latest in a number of sustainable transportation projects to have been completed at ITAQ, the only advanced propulsion laboratory in Canada. Inaugurated in April 2009, the facility contains cutting-edge equipment, including a 3-D scanner for modelling, dynamometers (to measure energy expended in various driving conditions, among other functions) and a high-power programmable DC supply (for battery testing or electric-drive powering). It is also home to a generic test vehicle, the only one in the country, which allows clients to “test parts without having to take apart a vehicle,” says Adam. “It’s like Lego in three pieces: the front, the middle and the back are removable.”

ITAQ continues to attract new clients — from small upstarts to large subsidiaries — thanks to its advanced propulsion lab. It also partners with other institutions, such as École Polytechnique de Montréal and Université du Québec’s École de technologie supérieure.

“Before the lab, we had expertise, but few resources,” says Adam. “Now we have the expertise and the tools.” Not to mention the drive to turn transportation technologies a shade greener.

ITAQ's advanced propulsion laboratory allows
Zoom

ITAQ's advanced propulsion laboratory allows researchers to develop and test more efficient vehicles
ITAQ