The world's biggest electric vehicle is this dumper truck

The battle for the future of the automobile is looking like it's been won. Countries and companies all around the world are pledging to phase out petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles over the next decade in favour of their electric cousins.

While the change will be most visible on streets and roads, it's also trickling down to other vehicles. To that end, a consortium of Swiss companies has just announced that it's converting a huge dumper truck into what will become the world's largest electric vehicle.

The Komatsu HD 605-7, which weighs 45 tons when empty and has a capacity of 65 tons, has already spent several years working in a quarry, but now - in a factory in the Swiss town of Lommis - its diesel engine is being swapped for batteries. 

Laws of thermodynamics

The truck's daily schedule - trucking material from a mountain ridge down into a valley 20 times a day - makes it ideal for electric conversion. Instead of wasting heat energy on the brakes as the truck descends, the energy can be harvested and used to charge the batteries. 

If all goes as planned, the team claims, the truck apparently harvests more energy going downhill than it needs for the ascent, so it can actually feed surplus electricity into the grid (It's not exactly clear how that squares with the laws of thermodynamics).

Inside the truck, its 4.5-ton battery system consists of 1,440 nickel-manganese cobalt cells - the largest ever to be installed on a land vehicle. Nickel manganese cobalt cells are also the choice of the German automobile industry when it comes to the next generation of electric cars," says Marcel Held, who's in charge of the safety assessments.

If testing on the new vehicle goes well, then the owner of the truck plans to power up to eight similar vehicles electrically in the long run. For the company performing the upgrade, it opens up new fields for large-scale construction equipment, particularly those involved in areas sensitive to exhaust gas and noise.

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.