Shell to tap Estonian fast-charging batteries for mining trucks

Energy giant Shell Plc plans to use a battery developed by Estonia-based Skeleton Technologies that can charge in 90 seconds to electrify heavy-duty mining trucks.

The oil company is the first major customer of Skeleton’s SuperBattery, which uses supercapacitors that allow for far faster charging than the lithium-ion batteries typically used in electric vehicles, the Estonian firm said in a statement Wednesday. One charge can power a truck for about 30 minutes.

Shell has been expanding into renewable power as it aims to become a net-zero emissions energy business. It has joined the Charge On consortium led by mining companies that are seeking ways to electrify haulage trucks, which are responsible for 80% of mine emissions.

Skeleton’s technology, providing ultrafast charging at 90 seconds, means the solution can help mining companies reduce emissions without compromising on efficiency,Grischa Sauerberg, vice president of mining at Shell, said in the statement.

The mining industry is seen as critical to reducing carbon emissions globally, yet mines have proved to be a difficult sector to electrify, in part because the massive trucks used to carry ore would require prohibitively expensive lithium-ion batteries to operate.

Skeleton’s batteries, which are scheduled to begin mass production in 2024, combine characteristics of traditional batteries with supercapacitors that use an electric field to store energy rather than a chemical reaction. Supercapacitors can be charged in seconds and recharged almost endlessly, but don’t store as much energy as lithium-ion batteries.

Supercapacitors are almost the silver bullet,” Skeleton Chief Executive Officer Taavi Madiberk said. “They have 1 million life cycles, you can charge them in a few seconds and they are inherently safe.”

Skeleton says it has signed €9 billion ($8.7 billion) in commercial agreements and letters of intent to date. The privately-held company has raised €200 million from investors to date and is building a supercapacitor plant with Siemens AG in Markranstadt, Germany.

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