The Bortana EV. Source: Safescape
The Bortana EV. Source: Safescape

The makers of an electric vehicle designed specifically for the mining industry will launch the new product this month at Queensland’s Department of Main Roads Mt Cotton Training Centre.

The heavy-duty Bortana EV, which has been developed by Australian mining safety product company Safescape, in collaboration with NSW-based 3ME Technology and the METS Ignited Project, will be unveiled in Brisbane on May 24, following the 2019 Austmine Conference.

A comparatively “light” vehicle (compared to the heavy loaders and massive trucks typical of Australia’s mining industry), the Bortana is considered a game-changing electric vehicle (EV) for the industry.

It will have a 150km range, with a 50kWh battery, 135kW output motor and 320Nm torque, and has the potential to significantly reduce the industry’s energy usage and vehicle emissions.

Safescape managing director Steve Durkin tells The Driven that the hardrock mining industry is perfectly suited to make the switch to EVs, thanks to existing high-voltage networks used in the mines.

“The mining industry – particularly hardrock underground mining – in Australia benefits significantly more than the average industry from EVs because we have distributed high power networks in our mines,” Durkin says.

“All the tunnels in our mines have distributed high power because we use it a lot for drilling and pumping, ventilation and other infrastructure, so we don’t the concern [of range anxiety] because can we can deliver fast charging relatively easily.”

Additionally, because most equipment in the mines are run on diesel, there are also huge amounts of energy used to evacuate the noxious gases, particulate pollution and heat generated by diesel machinery.

“Because of that the benefit is astronomically higher simply because we can we can reduce the amount of energy that the mine as a whole uses, simply by not needing to ventilate to the same degree,” Durkin says.

This potential lead Safescape to hatch a plan to develop the Bortana EV, but without the financial means to develop an EV from the ground up, Safescape have looked to a vehicle that it could retrofit.

But the industry’s go-to light vehicles, typically Landcruisers, only have a life expectancy of 2-3 years in the extremely salty and corrosive conditions of a mine, much less than the life expectancy of the chosen EV technology made by 3ME that lasts 8-10 years.

This lead Durkin and his team to the Brazilian Agrale Marruá, a rough and ready all-terrain vehicle that has some outstanding characteristics perfect for the mining industry and a life expectancy to match the drivetrain.

“This vehicle is really well suited, because it is very very robust and strong in its build. It’s overegineered so that it can be dropped out of an aircraft into a warzone…and actually the corrosion rsistance is second to none,” Durkin says.

“Every panel is galvanised, which is unique, and the chassis is fully sealed – whereas most chassis have holes so that once the water gets into the holes they rust from the inside out, in this case we have a vehicle that is corrosion-resistant with a strong build that is capable of handling a rough terrain.”

Safescape do not release a unit price for the Bortana EV. Instead, it intends to make the Bortana EV available on a leasing model at a price that reflects the lower cost of ownership overall to that of a light combustion equivalent.

Testing for the Bortana EV prototype begins next month and Safescape plans to commence manufacturing of the Bortana EV (the diesel version will also be available as a condition of being able to purchase the Agrale Marruás sans powertrain rather than convert).

But the hope is that the benefits of the Bortana EV will shine, leading the company to one day look to developing EV version of the industry’s big fuel consumers – heavy loaders and mining trucks.

Durkin says Safescape may even consider creating a consumer version of the Bortana, although at first it would likely be a plug-in hybrid to compensate for the short driving range of the Bortana EV.

“We expect within two years that we will come out with a hybrid version to get the best of both worlds, with maybe 60kms range and a range extender, so that people can get out to places that they want to go to and still get the benefits of EV around town,” says Durkin.

In addition to mining applications, the Bortana is also suitable for military, agricultural and firefighting applications, and uses components – including its batteries – that have been developed in Australia by 3ME Technology.

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