The newest scoops and haulers have innovative designs and advanced battery technology that answers the immediate and perennial needs of underground coal customers
by jesse morton, technical writer
The latest innovations in batch haulage solutions for underground coal reveal something about the pressing needs of today’s mines. Those mines need to move more coal per trip, quicker, across greater distances, along increasingly circuitous routes.
The latest innovations also say much about the state of battery technology. Many of the challenges that lingered from the prior decades of use of battery-powered solutions underground seem to have been bested. As a result, battery-powered scoops and haulers are increasingly viable options for more mines, in the U.S. and abroad.
And, finally, the latest innovations say much about the level of competition among suppliers in the space. Indeed, there is no rest for the R&D teams at these suppliers.
All of which benefits the customers, who, on top of the pressing needs of the day, perpetually need solutions that help improve production, safety and sustainability.
Beast of a Machine
Highland Machinery Corp. (HMC) reported tracking stats show the first HMC 320DM scoop deployed surpassed customer expectations for availability and productivity. “The topmost benefit is reliability of the machine,” said company owner Bill McClanahan.
“Since being placed into service in late 2018, the first machine has seen incredible reliability with an extremely minimal amount of downtime and with no major component failures to date,” he said. “Operators have told us numerous times that the amount of power and capabilities of the machine are unmatched and they are continually impressed by what this machine is capable of when put to the test.”
The battery-powered scoop was designed to deliver raw power. It is “for customers and mines with big needs in an electric scoop,” McClanahan said.
“The HMC 320DM is a beast of a machine,” he said. “This machine is built and designed to handle extremely demanding tasks underground and has the size and power to back it up.”
It was engineered to perform at the top of its size class. “The 320DM was designed to support large operations and to tackle jobs that other scoops just do not have the size and power to handle,” McClanahan said. “It was engineered by Highland Machinery to be of the highest quality and to ensure that it could stand the test of time in conquering these grueling tasks.”
The 70,000-lb scoop, with batteries and on 38-in. tires, is 34 ft long, 9.5 ft wide, and about 49 in. high at the battery, with a maximum canopy height of 59 in. It offers 1-ft clearance.
“When equipped with 44-in. tires, the machine offers 14 in. of ground clearance and can accommodate these tires without the need for axle spacers,” McClanahan said.
It offers a maximum payload of 61,000 lb, and a maximum breakout load of 30,000 lb. An 87-ft3-(level-load)-capacity bucket comes standard.
Standard features also include a heavy-duty frame and ball-bearing center selection, heavy-duty ground-based battery system, John Deer planetary four-wheel-drive axles, and an easy-access control panel for the variable frequency drive.
“The machine offers a 25-in. mainframe thickness, and, as with all OEM Highland Machinery frames, comes standard with a two-year warranty on the mainframe,” McClanahan said. “The standard electrical system for the 320DM is a 240-volt (AC) system, with two 75-hp tram motors and a 47-hp pump motor.”
Optional is a hydraulic winch, a camera system and a proximity system.
The topmost benefits offered come from the sheer power of the machine.
“The 240-volt dual-motor system delivers unbelievable amounts of torque,” McClanahan said.
“During initial testing of the machine at Highland’s facility, we put the bucket of the 320DM to the bucket of a Cat 988B loader,” McClanahan said.
“We then locked the breaks down on the 988B loader and pushed the 988B, with brakes locked, across our testing yard without ever slipping a wheel on the 320DM,” he said. “This means that that the 320DM pushed in excess of 95,000 lb without ever so much as slipping a tire, with the torque output of the VFD drives being set well below their maximum setting.”
The scoop is also designed for versatility. “It comes standard with a typical bucket with ejector blade; however, the machine has other attachment options,” McClanahan said.
“A 16,000-lb forklift attachment, optional winch, four- and six-way dozer blades, and bell-crank front ends are also available for this machine,” he said. “The 320DM also comes in a rubber-tire tractor configuration, which allows for mines to use this machine as a supply tractor.”
If used as a supply tractor at an operation also using 320DMs as scoops, the “interchangeable parts reduce the amount of inventory needed,” he said.
The scoop was first envisioned in 2017 after HMC “determined the need for a robust electric tram scoop that’s capable of extreme and demanding tasks in underground mining,” McClanahan said.
“We identified areas of other large machines that left something to be desired by owners and operators,” he said. “We began to decide what we could do differently in order to make the 320DM a true industry-leading design.”
The engineering team “delivered beyond the expectations we had originally set forth in the project,” he said. It borrowed and integrated winning design concepts from smaller HMC machines. “In the second quarter of 2018, production of the first unit began.”
It launched the company down a path of building bigger machines in general.
“This is phase one in Highland’s current project of developing 36- and 50-ton shield haulers,” McClanahan said. The shield haulers will have an option of having dual 80-kW, 108-hp (AC) traction motors.
“There is a great need for these machines in the future of longwall mining within the U.S. and around the world,” he said. “We wanted to introduce a heavy-duty, dual-motor scoop with AC-VFD traction drives to prove our ideas and our determination to be a dominating manufacturer of battery-powered mining equipment.”
The scoop does exactly that and furthers HMC’s mission “of providing the highest quality of OEM underground mining equipment available on the market,” McClanahan said.
“Highland prides itself on being an industry leader and continually developing new solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of today’s mining operations,” he said. “We have no interest in slowing down.”
HMC will be at MINExpo in the South Hall in booth No. 25553 where it will educate on its lines of shuttle cars, scoops and feeder breakers. “We have a tremendous amount of developments and industry-leading solutions that could make drastic improvements to customers’ operations,” McClanahan said. “We will have literature about all of our OEM product lines and expert staff to discuss the countless benefits we can offer.”
Komatsu reported selling three electric scoops amid increased demand in H1 2021 as the company seeks new customers in the developing world. “The electric scoop vehicles (ESVs) have been embraced globally and there are many opportunities in emerging overseas markets, including India, Russia and South Africa,” said Dennis Conner, global product manager, Komatsu.
“The majority of these operations plan to use scoops to replace diesel-powered maintenance vehicles or load haul dumps,” he said. “In most cases, our scoops offer capabilities not found in the alternative maintenance vehicles. As a result, a number of our customers are eager to make the transition to Joy scoops.”
Several have come to the table to negotiate trials. “Trials give us the opportunity to present an alternative method or equipment type to a new customer,” he said. “Several trials are being discussed that will allow new customers to use the equipment in their working environment and discover the impact a scoop can have on their operation.”
The uptick follows a lull in business that hit everyone in the industry. “In 2020, Komatsu saw delays in both domestic and international opportunities due to market uncertainty,” Conner said.
“The scoops product group used this time to explore design improvements and model changes to increase value though added features,” he said. “While we have sold ESV scoops in 2021, we have also focused on the addition of new features and integration with other Joy products.”
The focus is part of a larger effort under way to standardize Joy equipment. “We continue to support the existing fleet; however, new models are being proposed that will offer mechanical updates to the bucket, center section and battery lift,” Conner said. “The new models will also include hydraulic and electrical modifications intended to enhance operator comfort and promote lower operating costs.”
Those modifications will make the ESV line a “next-level offering,” he said. “Our primary objectives are increased reliability and serviceability, and lower total cost of ownership, which directly impacts the customer’s bottom line.”
Lower total cost of ownership is perhaps the topmost reported customer need. “The Joy ESV accomplishes that by utilizing components common to other Joy products,” he said. “By leveraging purchasing volumes and existing inventory, Komatsu can provide a competitively priced machine that helps reduce operating costs.”
And the increased reliability and serviceability speak directly to the needs of customers in emerging markets.
Komatsu’s ESV line has four models.
The smallest in the line, the 01ESV36, has a 75-hp motor, weighs 23 tons, and is for 36-in. seams. It has a 660-ampere-hour (amp-hr) battery, a bucket capacity of 120 ft3, a breakout load rating of 10.4 tons, and a maximum payload rating of more than 20 tons. With a ground clearance of roughly 13 in., it can tram at up to 5 mph.
The biggest model, the 01ESV60, weighs 35 tons, and is for 56-in. seams. It has a breakout load rating of 15 tons and a maximum payload rating of 30.4 tons.
It has a bucket capacity of 165 ft3.
With ground clearance of just less than roughly 17 in., it trams at up to 6 mph. It uses a 1,240-amp-hr battery, and has two 75-hp motors.
It offers greatly improved battery life over standard 128-volt units, increased stability and capacity control on steep grades, a proven braking system, and reduced battery maintenance. It offers more torque than diesel competitors, Komatsu reported.
The ESVs are the pinnacle of a long evolutionary process. “Battery-powered scoops have been in use in North America for more than 20 years,” Conner said.
“The Joy ESV would introduce this more sustainable option into the Indian and Russian Markets,” he said. “Improvements planned for the Joy ESV will promote longer battery life, increased reliability, and lower cost per ton in comparison to previous models.”
Komatsu will have experts at MINExpo to answer questions on the ESVs.
Battery Hauler Cuts Costs
Simmons Equipment Co. announced the SE40 Battery Hauler, which is larger than its predecessor, the low-seam SE30XL Battery Hauler, and features a vertical articulation design to reduce weight and complexity.
“The SE40 is a rugged, 18-ton-capacity unit,” CEO Matt Simmons said.
Both haulers “boast ground pressures of 20% to 30% less than competitor models,” he said. “We’ve really simplified the design while maintaining competitive capacities and performance.”
The haulers feature enhanced drive and battery technologies. “We feel battery haulage represents a major opportunity to improve mine productivity and operation efficiency in the coming years,” Simmons said.
The supplier took an industry-first approach to the design, and used many of the key components of its scoop line. “Historically, the battery scoop and battery hauler had virtually zero parts compatibility or overall synergies,” Simmons said.
“That didn’t make sense to us, especially in today’s competitive market,” he said. “Our battery hauler line now features tremendous interchangeability and technology commonality with our scoop line, which will drastically reduce costs and improve operational efficiency.”
Common parts include elements of the drive system, drive train, hydraulics and battery system. “We feel battery compatibility is a real game changer,” Simmons said. “Our SE30XL Hauler can be set up to interchange batteries with the S280 Scoop, and the larger SE40 Hauler interchanges seamlessly with our popular S360 Scoop line.”
The common battery assemblies could contribute significantly to cost savings. “If an issue arises with a battery, downtime can be lessened or eliminated by being able to draw from a broader, common fleet of batteries,” Simmons said.
“This synergy also applies to the chargers and battery connectors,” he said. “It really simplifies a broad range of operational, maintenance and inventory-related challenges.”
The announcement comes a little more than a year after the release of the SE30XL. The hauler hit the market offering best-in-class maneuverability and 12-ton capacity.
At 35.5 ft long, 12 ft wide, and with an 18-ft wheelbase, the SE30XL is powered by a 240-V AC variable-frequency drive system common to the scoop line. At release, it was described as delivering increases in safety and productivity while cutting cost of ownership.
The design for the unit was conceived by the company’s founder, and was years in development. It required overcoming significant hurdles. “Over years, the cost of acquisition and the cost to maintain battery haulers became prohibitive due to their overall size, weight and complexity,” Simmons said.
“This allowed the cable-powered shuttle car to become the dominant batch haulage vehicle in soft rock applications,” he said. “The advantages of battery haulers are still there, including complete freedom of movement, elimination of cable management, and enhanced mine development flexibility. The challenge becomes how to eliminate the excessive cost, weight and complexity to make it financially viable.”
The SE30XL did exactly that, and blazed the trail for the development and release of the larger SE40.
The latter is set for release after months of testing and field trials. “The feedback has been really positive on the overall machine performance,” Simmons said.
“With valuable feedback from operators, we’ve already made some slight adjustments to the drive system that has improved battery life and maneuverability,” he said. “We are excited to take it to market.”
Thus far, the supplier has sold three, which were purchased by a customer looking for a competitive advantage. “Incremental tonnage can make all the difference in this market,” Simmons said. “We want to be part of the solution.”