Success Story May 12, 2022 at 02:00 pm

Say hello to Africa’s first and only hydrogen truck operator. His truck is also the world’s biggest

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor May 12, 2022 at 02:00 pm

May 12, 2022 at 02:00 pm | Success Story

Alex Tumisang Lekgau operates the world's largest hydrogen truck. Photo: Twitter/Anglo American ZA

The world’s largest hydrogen-powered truck was launched on Friday at a platinum mine in South Africa. Mining giant Anglo American, which unveiled the 220-tonne truck, said it is the first of a fleet that will replace the firm’s diesel-powered trucks, AFP reported.

The truck uses two-megawatt hydrogen fuel cells to haul up to 290 tonnes of ore, the outlet added. It was displayed at Mogalakwena mine, around 250 kilometers from Johannesburg. “What we are launching is not merely an impressive piece of machinery, it is the genesis of an entire ecosystem powered by hydrogen,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

29-year-old Alex Tumis­ang Lekgau knows that very well. He used eight months to train to use the truck, a vehicle that can be compared in size to a small house. The young South African is now the first licensed hydro­gen truck oper­ator in Africa and oper­ator of the largest one in the world. Lekgau told SowetanLive that he was work­ing as a diesel mech­an­ical assist­ant at Mogalak­wena when he got to know about the project in 2021.

He then volun­teered to be the first to operate it. Lekgau was tested in August 2021 and also passed the global test to become the sole oper­ator of the truck, which he also helped build. His tests included mod­ules and sim­u­la­tion, according to SowetanLive.

“Being the first in Africa to oper­ate and work on this machinery is a great oppor­tun­ity to grow my career in the world of hydro­gen oper­a­tions. It is going to be the toughest expos­ure and exper­i­ence for me because I have to make a lot of adjust­ments like get­ting famil­iar with the truck and util­ising the new driv­ing skills and being accus­tomed to the life­style,” he said.

Before he started work at Anglo American in 2018, Lekgau stud­ied engineering at the Capri­corn TVET Col­lege. “Before being licensed I was doing major repairs, cable rout­ing and install­a­tion of vari­ous com­pon­ents. I was also encour­aging safe work pro­cesses by issu­ing the cor­rect pro­tect­ing equip­ment to my col­leagues and I also man­aged the stor­e­room and kept good house­keep­ing on site,” said Lekgau.

In the years to come, he would like to be a hydro­gen truck safety facil­it­ator to teach oth­ers how to use the machinery. For now, he is elated to be part of new technology.

“Work­ing for engin­eer­ing con­trol tech­niques is a great feel­ing for me because I am meet­ing with goal-driven and hard­work­ing people who are will­ing to help and are kind…that is why I am flex­ible with the work­ing hours and know I am going to be with people who I love being with.”

By 2040, Anglo American said it hopes to be carbon neutral. “It will use solar power to provide the fuel, using the energy to split water into its component atoms of hydrogen and oxygen,” according to AFP.

“Over the next several years, we envisage converting or replacing our current fleet of diesel-powered trucks with this zero-emission haulage system, fuelled with green hydrogen,” CEO of Anglo American Duncan Wanblad said. “If this pilot is successful, we could remove up to 80% of diesel emissions at our open pit mines by rolling this technology across our global fleet.”

South Africa recently got help from the U.S., France, Germany, and Britain in its process to move to a low-carbon economy. The four wealthy nations pledged about $8.5 billion and technical assistance to help the country in this regard. The main focus of the deal signed in Glasgow in November last year during COP26 is to transform the country’s electricity generation system, reports said at the time.

The launch of the latest hydrogen-powered truck is, therefore, “a gigantic leap for South Africa’s hydrogen future economy,” Ramaphosa said.

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