Tech Updates

Here’s how electric trucks can use mountains to create green energy

As the world is moving towards renewable energy sources, one promising avenue is hydropower. Simply put, this is all about using falling or fast-running water to produce electricity.

Despite its capability, innovation in hydropower technology has been relatively slow in the last century, and the potential of hydropower in multiple suitable regions remains untapped. 

Fortunately for the planet, Julian Hunt, researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and an international team of scientists have developed a technology that can harness hydropower from steep mountain regions, where the potential for generating electricity from rivers is very high. 

What’s been the difficulty so far?

Firstly, the area surrounding small water streams is very limited. This means that the typical components of a hydroelectric plant (dams, tunnels, reservoirs, turbine generation systems) can’t really be installed. 

Secondly, river flow is highly susceptible to climate change, which implies that a conventional facility couldn’t guarantee consistent power generation, nor a return of investment. 

What’s the research’s solution?

Hunt and his team developed a technology called Electric Truck Hydropower (ETH). As the name suggests, it’s electric trucks themselves that undertake the entire process of transforming water power into electricity.

Here’s how it works: 

  • A discharge site is installed at the base of the mountain, while a charge site is installed at its upper part. 
  • Trucks loaded with empty containers and nearly discharged batteries ascend towards the charge site, where they fill the containers with water. 
  • Once filled up, the trucks descend the mountain applying their regenerative braking system, which turns the water weight into electricity and charges the trucks’ battery. 
  • At the discharge site, the containers are unloaded and the water is released back to the river. This reduces the negative impact on river flow and aquatic life. 
  • The charged battery is then replaced with a nearly discharged one, and the process starts anew.