Schematic description of the system where the empty truck moves up the mountain to collect the containers filled with water at the charge site and the truck with the full container goes down the mountain generating electricity. The water is then unloaded at the discharge site. (Photo: IIASA)

In steep mountain regions, the potential for generating electricity from a small stream of water is high, however, the hydropower potential of these regions remains untapped as it requires storage reservoirs, which have environmental and social impacts. International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) researcher Julian Hunt and an international team of researchers developed a new technology called Electric Truck Hydropower that could become a key method for electricity generation in steep mountainous regions. The results of the study have been published in the Energy Journal.

Electric Truck Hydropower would use the existing road infrastructure to transport water down the mountain in containers, applying the regenerative brakes of the electric truck to turn the potential energy of the water into electricity and charge the truck's battery. The generated energy could then be sold to the grid or used by the truck itself to transport other goods. Electric Truck Hydropower could also generate electricity in combination with solar and wind resources or provide energy storage services to the grid.

The proposed technology is a clean source of electricity that is competitive with solar, wind, and conventional hydropower. Cost estimates show that the levelized cost of Electric Truck Hydropower is $30-100 per MWh, which is considerably cheaper than conventional hydropower at $50-200 per MWh. The environmental impacts of Electric Truck Hydropower are also significantly smaller than that of conventional hydropower.

“This technology does not require dams, reservoirs, or tunnels, and it does not disrupt the natural flow of the river and fish passage. The system requires only roads, which already exist, charging and discharging stations similar to small car parks, a battery facility connected to the grid, and the trucks,” said Hunt.

When looking at the global reach of this technology, the research team estimated that Electric Truck Hydropower could generate 1.2 PWh electricity per year, which is equivalent to about 4 percent of global energy consumption in 2019.

The technology could harness the previously untapped potential for hydropower on steep mountain ranges. The regions with the highest potential are the Himalayas and the Andes.

“It is an interesting electricity generation alternative due to its high flexibility. For example, if a country is in an energy crisis, it can buy several electric trucks to generate hydropower,” Hunt said. “Once the crisis is over, the trucks can be used to transport cargo,” he added.

For more information, contact Ansa Heyl at +43 2236 807 574.



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This article first appeared in the May, 2022 issue of Battery & Electrification Technology Magazine.

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