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Cambrian College to host battery test site for mining vehicles

Testing hub will allow Sudbury college to become a third-party validation facility

Cambrian College is helping to step up Sudbury's role as a key centre for Battery Electric Vehicle knowledge and innovation.

Details were revealed at the recent Mine Operators and Maintenance Engineers conference, hosted by the Sudbury branch of CIM (Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum) on how Cambrian College will be expanding its Centre for Smart Mining to include a formal testing facility for battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

Stephen Gravel, the manager at the Smart Centre, spoke briefly at the conference to comment on the role of education as more mining companies are integrating BEVs into their mining operations. This formal announcement of the testing centre was revealed by FedNor earlier this year, but Gravel provided the details this past week.

Gravel said that within a year Cambrian will be opening a specialized battery performance testing facility where companies can go to have their vehicle power trains and battery packs tested on a simulator and dynamometer machine. The facility will be 5,600 square feet. Contractors arrived at the college this week to begin preparations for construction. 

The idea of the new testing centre is to give a more realistic picture of how the battery and the battery-powered vehicle will perform under real conditions.

"A lot of the time, there's a bit of a gulf in data between what is done in simulations or done in (computer) modelling and what's actually done when they're integrated in a normal size vehicle. What we are trying to do is give them better data on simulating by actually turning the motors on the same duty cycle that you can expect to see underground," Gravel explained.

He said a major benefit of an independent testing centre is that it can be a resource for the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) by providing third-party feedback on the performance of their mining vehicles.

"It'll help with R&D (research and development) and understanding where they're going, especially with the onboard new battery types or new power trains or motors whatever it is. But then also for the mines themselves, when it comes to mine planning to be able to plan mine infrastructure better, where they need to situate charging stations, those sorts of things," Gravel said.  

This will also allow Cambrian to contract out the testing centre as a service for companies manufacturing battery electric mining equipment.

Gravel said many of the OEM companies have their own testing facilities, but the idea of third-party validation is important for the mining companies that are buying the newly developed mining vehicles and need to carry out due diligence. 

The other benefit Gravel sees is that this should introduce Cambrian students to the newest and most up-to-date battery electric power in North America.

 "So this will be a great pipeline of new trainees for these companies to hire."

Len Gillis covers mining and health care for Sudbury.com.

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