Liebherr converted this massive mining excavator to electric power

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For the first time in the company’s 40-year history, Liebherr have converted one of their R 9400 excavators from a conventional diesel to an electric powertrain.

The re-powered mining machine was commissioned at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek mine site in Western Australia – but what’s more significant is that the conversion was done during the standard service life of the machine.

“The modular design of Liebherr equipment makes it possible to repower existing diesel excavators to new zero emission configurations, such as electric powertrains,” explains Oliver Weiss, Executive Vice President of R&D, Engineering, and Manufacturing for Liebherr Mining. “This means that the diesel equipment customers buy today is also future-proofed for many years to come. The fact that we can ease the transition from traditional to decarbonized mining fleets for our customers is one of the key strategies of the Liebherr Zero Emission Mining Program.”

Liebherr partnered with mining clients Fortescue to execute the repower, with engineers from both companies working to ensure that the newly electric excavator would be to the everyday challenges of mining. The upgrades themselves, meanwhile, were carried out at Liebherr-Australia’s Perth branch in Western Australia.

Liebherr repowered R 9400 excavator

Liebherr and Fortescue repower R 9400 excavator to electric configuration
The repowered Liebherr R 9400 E excavator at Fortescue’s Christmas Creek mine; via Liebherr.

“This is an exciting milestone for both Fortescue and Liebherr as we work together to develop the zero emission solutions the world needs to step beyond fossil fuels,” says Fortescue Metals Chief Executive Officer, Dino Otranto. “Our partnership with Liebherr is an example of true collaboration and how heavy industry can work together to decarbonize and eliminate fossil fuels.”

The converted R 9400 can be connected to a constant power source for energy, either directly to the grid or to a large scale BESS. For now, the excavator is connected to a hydrogen-fueled Offboard Power Unit (OPU), designed and developed by Fortescue, that is currently undergoing site-based testing.

Electrek’s Take

Converting gas and diesel-fueled cars to electric at scale is a concept that’s fraught with problems. Far too many to list here, in fact. But heavy equipment?

Everything from excavators to loaders to heavy trucks are built to be powertrain agnostic, and manufacturers will often offer the same basic vehicle with Cummins, Detroit Diesel, or Volvo power, so there’s a degree of openness baked into those systems already. Libeherr is just taking that to the next level by installing an electric drive motor in place of an internal combustion engine. And, if the project is successful, it could be the first of many.

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