New First Mode Proving Grounds Supports Real-World Testing and Optimization of the Next Generation of Hydrogen Haul Trucks to be Deployed at Mine Sites Around the World

Today, carbon reduction company First Mode announced a first-of-its-kind proving grounds for ultra-class mining haul trucks in Washington state.Located 90-minutes south of Seattle in Centralia, the First Mode Proving Grounds enables the company to test and optimize the next generation of zero-emission ultra-class haul trucks, and the associated hydrogen refueling infrastructure, that will be deployed at mine sites around the world.

Following the successful deployment of a proof-of-concept hydrogen-powered haul truck at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena mine in South Africa in May 2022, First Mode is focused on scaling its U.S.-based production capabilities to meet the needs of its customers across the mining industry.

The First Mode Proving Grounds, which includes an outdoor work yard and office space, is located at the TransAlta Centralia Mine, a former coal mine now in the process of reclamation. The site enables First Mode to better analyze full mine site infrastructure and operations in a true mining environment. First Mode is leasing the space from TransAlta.

“The First Mode Proving Grounds in Centralia is a critical next step in our mission to help heavy industry eliminate diesel and transition to clean energy,” said First Mode CEO Chris Voorhees. “The site will support both the optimization of ultra-class haul trucks and the full infrastructure associated with diesel-free mobility and the production and distribution of clean energy.”

The First Mode Proving Grounds benefits not only from proximity to the company’s Seattle-area engineering and technology teams, but also from the opportunity to work in an area that houses decades of heavy industry expertise.

“We are incredibly grateful to be working alongside local contractors and trades, including the staff at TransAlta, as we build out the First Mode Proving Grounds,” said Aaron Ison, principal mechanical engineer at First Mode. “The extensive knowledge and experience within the Centralia community are already well established, and our local partnerships will be critical to the success of our current and future work.”

Anticipated to arrive on site in 2023, the Komatsu 930E-4 ultra-class haul trucks will be retrofitted with hybrid battery and hydrogen fuel cell powerplants. In future phases of work the company will explore additional uses for the First Mode Proving Grounds, including building out the associated critical mine site infrastructure for battery recharging, hydrogen refueling, and hydrogen production. 

A two-megawatt hydrogen-fueled powerplant, designed and built by First Mode in Seattle, is installed in this Anglo American haul truck at their platinum mine in Mogalakwena, South Africa, creating the world’s largest zero-emission vehicle in the world.

“We are extremely pleased to leverage our mining legacy in Washington and help innovative companies like First Mode advance mine site hauling as the energy transition unfolds,” said Mickey Dreher, President of TransAlta US. “Given the enormous amounts of metal and mineral extraction that will be required to transition away from fossil fuels, First Mode’s plan for using our Centralia mine site as a proving grounds for haul trucks has the potential to dramatically reduce emissions at mines around the world. We are pleased to support innovation toward a clean energy future.” 

According to a 2021 McKinsey report, 40 to 50 percent of mining’s carbon dioxide emissions come from diesel fuel for heavy equipment. First Mode is working to eliminate diesel in heavy industry and speed the transition to clean energy. In June 2022, First Mode and Anglo American announced the intent to combine First Mode and Anglo American’s nuGen™ Zero Emissions Haulage Solution (“ZEHS”) under the First Mode name to accelerate the further development and commercialization of nuGen™.  

Upon expected completion of the transaction in Q4 2022, the newly combined First Mode business will enter into a supplier agreement to decarbonize Anglo American’s global fleet of ultra-class haul trucks, of which approximately 400 are currently in operation.