Electric Dump Truck Produces More Energy Than It Uses

Electric vehicles are everywhere now. It’s more than just Leafs, Teslas, and a wide variety of electric bikes. It’s also trains, busses, and in this case, gigantic dump trucks. This truck in particular is being put to work at a mine in Switzerland, and as a consequence of having an electric drivetrain is actually able to produce more power than it consumes. (Google Translate from Portugese)

This isn’t some impossible perpetual motion machine, either. The dump truck drives up a mountain with no load, and carries double the weight back down the mountain after getting loaded up with lime and marl to deliver to a cement plant. Since electric vehicles can recover energy through regenerative braking, rather than wasting that energy as heat in a traditional braking system, the extra weight on the way down actually delivers more energy to the batteries than the truck used on the way up the mountain.

The article claims that this is the largest electric vehicle in the world at 110 tons, and although we were not able to find anything larger except the occasional electric train, this is still an impressive feat of engineering that shows that electric vehicles have a lot more utility than novelties or simple passenger vehicles.

Thanks to [Frisco] for the tip!

76 thoughts on “Electric Dump Truck Produces More Energy Than It Uses

  1. I wonder how they’re getting rid of the surplus power. Maybe they dump it back into the grid, but I think it’s more likely that they just have a big heating coil or something like that.

      1. “traditional brakes” do not work for these use cases. They quickly overheat and fade.
        “Traditionally” they use engine brake, hydraulic/magnetic retarder and/or exhaust brake.

        1. yes but the brakes would just be augmenting the “engine braking” provided by the electric drive-train, I do not own a dump truck, nor do I work on them regularly, but seems a plausible solution seeing as the dump truck will also have traditional brakes anyway.

          if the wheels are hydraulically driven then any kind of hydraulic retarder counts as a traditional brake, in so much as they are traditionally fitted to that vehicle in that use case.

        2. No I’d assume the operate in the same way as a deisel.eletric dump truck when rsc/dynamic braking is applied the drive motors switch from using power to drive to producing power that is feed to a grid box basically a giant toaster with massive cooling fans that are designed to use more power than the drive motors can produce the load creates drag causing braking known as rsc or dynamic braking for more in depth idea look up komatsu 830,930 ac and.dc drive systems

      1. Then the dump truck would have to be tethered to the equipment it was powering. Now it’s not mobile and it introduces extra safety issues. The extra energy may not be that substantial to make it worth the hassle and down time.

        1. It doesn’t need to be tethered, unless you mean that in a metaphorical sense? The Dump Truck can store that power in batteries/capacitors and feed them equipment at the top of the hill going. The equipment at the top of the hill would also need to be electric to optimize efficiency.

    1. They could use the excess power to compress air into cylinders. Those could then be run through turbines to generate more power. I think there was a car from Tata that ran off of compressed air.

      1. Yes, this would be an excellent way to dissipate unwanted energy. Because as an energy storage compressing air is quite inefficient. (thermodynamic losses)
        Compressing air is only useful if you want compressed air for any reason, but not if you need electricity at the end. For example for air tools which have, without doubt, their own merits.

    1. Draglines are/were indeed massive, the bucket wheel excavators in Germany’s open lignite mines are even bigger and also powered from an external powerstation (Bagger 293 holds many of the records for largest land vehicle by many metrics.) They might not be BEVs, but they’re certainly electric. And this dinky little dumper truck certainly doesn’t come close in size.

      1. Yes, some boats and submarines beat that in terms of displacement, HOWEVER, I (and other commenters here) specifically talk about LAND vehicles. I don’t know about you but I’ve never seen a boat or submarine operational on land.

        1. remind me to never play a game with you …

          “name a vehicle bigger than this truck”

          a cargo ship

          “oh no no no I meant one only on land, what are you stupid cause you are right and I have a single tracked mind?”

    2. Think this “largest electric vehicle” claim depends on how you define it. Most large modern ships are electric drive from gas generators.
      Most modern Navy ships are electric drive with nuclear power.
      Old Navycwubs were battery powered cwhile submurged.

    1. And here’s a video of the dump truck in action: https://youtu.be/sbPH5cTTBDs

      It is actually a Komatsu, and normally has an electric drive train with AC motors driven from a diesel. Kuhn Schweitz convert it to battery power. There are a lot of vehicles which use an electric drive train. Heavy earth movers, ships and submarines. A lot of them are now hybrid to some extent, in that they have batteries to even out the load on the diesels, or in the case of ships they have electric drive to the props. Nuclear powered aircraft carriers now are all electric drive! Also ice-breakers. Most ferries have electric propellers mounted on steerable pods. There is a Dutch company that convert harbor tugs from diesel-electric to battery-electric.

    2. So close, but not quite there. :-) I too like Fully Charged YouTube videos and the electric car ferry is cool, but I also know they did a video that included this dump truck and it looks like neither of us has found it. They make so many videos and I’m not aware of an index. :-)

        1. Potential energy is still energy. Your reasoning is like “this car that works with oil instead of horses does not require oat, and it even produces light and music with the oil energy surplus!”

        1. Yes, absolutely, and it entirely misses the point. Sure, this has come cause we moved mass down a hill and converted that into energy, but we’re not going to move that mass back up the hill.

          I think people just like to have the opportunity to throw out “second law of thermodynamics” to prove the value of their physics degree.

    1. if it was a closed system then yea. but when you load it down with potential energy in the form of high altitude rocks then apparently you can get enough for the trip back up. in this case the extra energy comes from geologic processes. you only need to be more than 50 percent efficient to do this since you only have to bring up half the mass as what comes down.

    2. You don’t even need to have read the article: the second paragraph of the summary here says “This isn’t some perpetual motion machine. The dump truck drives up a mountain with no load, and carries double the weight back down the mountain”

    1. No this is a very viable solution. The coal mine a mile from my house has an entire tanker full of fuel delivered at least twice a week. If they had trucks equipped with this technology that would drop to nearly nothing.

  2. It needs to transmit the extra energy via a tesla coil or some rig to the mine. Put receptors in the road/ For that matter discharge like a bumper car — one terminal on side and one on bottom. Not hard tethered but still connected.
    Just random thoughts.

  3. I get the stored seismic energy potential. What they didn’t say is how much energy was used to mine, load and unload the dump truck in the first place… The contents of the truck don’t just hop in and hop out by themselves. The true test would be (1) for an empty truck to go up to the mining area as a and measure the battery health then. (2) load the truck (3) go down to the base where the load is removed from the truck (4) return to the mining area and compare the battery health from item “1”. Never mind that in steps “2” and “3” you are using energy to load and unload the truck presumably from “another” truck. If you want to impress me, then use the excess energy from the dump truck for mining, loading and unloading as well. Tether the excess power from the dump truck to another truck if you have to if the dump truck does not have the capability.

    1. Let me inject you with a little common sense. In a traditional mine you would have a loader, unloader and a hauling truck all using a massive amount of diesel fuel each. In this setup we have a loader and unloader using a massive amount of fuel plus a hauler using zero fuel plus generating a little extra power. I’m no rocket surgeon, but that second scenario uses LESS fuel and that is a GOOD thing.

    1. More like “geoelectric”, but that’s already taken to mean something entirely different. “Seismoelectric” is also taken, similarly. There are many types of gravity electric generators, but “gravitoelectric” is also taken to mean something else. “Kinoelectric” seems to be available, but rather vague.
      I’m going to go for “Tectoelectric”.

  4. if you ignore the energy required to get the mass it brings down then it “makes more than it uses” but that extracted material is “fuel”. and it cost energy to get that “fuel” into the truck. only this time its buried minerals not buried dinosaur or dead plants/

  5. At first I read this (quote: “the extra weight on the way down actually delivers more energy to the batteries than the truck used on the way up the mountain.”), and I thought, “well this truck could do this forever and never run out of energy. Sure sounds like a perpetual motion to me. Sorry, not possible.” … But, then I realized that the weight of the truck + rocks = 2X the weight of the truck going up the hill. And, yes, this would make all the difference. With regenerative braking efficiency usually around 60-70%, if the weight down is 2X the weight up, then you could, theoretically, come out net positive. The “free energy” that is being captured here is the fact that the work of putting the rocks up the mountain has already been “done”, and this process is simply taking advantage of that available potential energy. … Very ingenious! … But, also, common sense on something we should have been taking advantage of long ago whenever moving heavy loads down hill!

  6. Knowing that those vehicles already have a full electrical drivetriain, I was surprised it didn’t already exists.
    The transformation must have been pretty simple.

    It has a 720Kwh battery, and uses 20% of it to go up.
    They could have gone for smaller and cheaper one, but oversized battery is good for its longevity.
    I saves 50t of fuel each year.
    Battery should cost around 100KE, without counting the savings and maintenance cost of the fuel engine, it paid for itself in a few years. Great idea.

    Now, go and do the same with a 400t behemoth on a big mine, jackpot…

  7. One must take into account the loading of the dirt energy at the top of the hill. Also, dirt on a hill is potential energy and converting it to kinetic energy is not creating energy but transferring it. Physics 101. One can not create nor destroy energy. That is a scientific fact.

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