For many centuries, mankind has worked at various contraptions in order to create a perpetual motion machine, but despite the efforts of even the brainiest of boffins, every attempt ended in some degree of failure. And no matter how clever they have been, in the end their machines contravened either the first or second law of thermodynamics, or perhaps even both. As you will all know, the first law states that ΔU = Q — W. Simple, isn’t it? Yes, I thought it was as well, so I won’t bother explaining what it actually means, because you understand it already. Let’s move on.
Recently, however, an intriguing development in the mining industry has led to the creation of something that, although not strictly offering perpetual motion, provides something more than a little similar. Welcome, my friends, to a world in which trucks and trains can roll downhill, using only gravity as an impetus, generating electricity as they go. At the end of that journey, they then use the stored electricity to power their journey back uphill again. In theory, they could go on doing this day after day, week after week. Perpetually, if you will.
We’re becoming increasingly used to the sight of electric cars these days, of course. There was a time when a very occasional EV would appear in the local high street and we would all run out of shops and offices to gaze at it in silent amazement, and children would point at it and wonder why they couldn’t hear the engine. “Mummy, Daddy”, they’d shout, “that witchcraft car is coming to get me!” Actually, that’s not true at all, of course, but you get the picture. If you understand the laws of thermodynamics, you surely also know satire when you see it.
A bit bigger than a Nissan Leaf
Anyway, if you thought the sight of a Nissan Leaf was amazing, you need to head to Biel in Switzerland and gaze in genuine amazement at the incredible eDumper. Currently, this 65-tonne behemoth is the largest electric vehicle in the world, and it manages to carry a huge load – in the region of 60 tons each trip – of lime and marl from a local quarry. On the way up, it’s powered by a 4.5-tonne all-electric battery, but on the way down it’s free-wheeling towards the earth’s crust with just a bit of gravity for power.
Taking the concept to an even more gargantuan scale, if you head over to Western Australia in a few years from now you could catch a glimpse of one of their highly impressive Infinity Trains. These can be up to two miles long, and can carry an amazing 37,000 tonnes of ore. By 2030, four train routes leading to the coastal town of Port Hedland will be running all-electric trains, powered on one leg of the journey – the downward one, obviously – by gravity. The company behind the initiative, Fortescue Metals Group, is the world’s fourth-largest iron ore producer.
Clearly, any switch from diesel to gravity has to be good news for the environment, especially on such a large scale. Fortescue currently operates 16 train lines, guzzling up to 20 million gallons of diesel fuel in a year. Four of these lines are expected to go gravity, so to speak, thanks in part to the gradient of the journeys themselves. As well as reducing their carbon footprint dramatically, the company will also be saving a small fortune over the coming decades.
Here at Rose Media Group, we enjoy our status as one of the top PR agencies in Sussex and beyond, and we like keeping a close eye on developments in the sustainability sector. And while we are all too aware of the need to switch to EVs, we recognise that when heavy industry makes improvements the whole world can sit up and take notice.
Rose Media Group is perhaps the finest PR agency Sussex has to offer, founded by PR specialist Aneela Rose several years ago and going strong in Burgess Hill. Call 01444 242 341 to find out more.