Roy Hill, in Western Australia, has announced the purchase of a Wabtec FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive, the world’s first 100% battery, heavy-haul locomotive for the region and the mining industry.
“We are committed to transforming the next generation of transportation by adopting advanced technologies that improve energy efficiency, lower operating costs and improve our rail and mining network,” Gerhard Veldsman, CEO of Roy Hill, says. “The FLXdrive locomotive will be the first for the region and the first for the mining industry and will improve our rail operations from the mine to Port Hedland.”
Roy Hill will receive the newest version of the FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive in 2023 with an energy capacity of 7 MWh. It is an upgrade from the 2.4 MWh prototype that was successfully tested in revenue service with a Class 1 railroad in the USA earlier this year.
Based on the route and Roy Hill’s rail operations, the FLXdrive is anticipated to reduce the company’s fuel costs and emissions in percentage by double digits per train. The ongoing use of the FLXdrive will also reduce ongoing operational costs through maintenance spend.
Simon Pascoe, General Manager of Engineering for Roy Hill, says: “Our analysis with Wabtec confirms the FLXdrive locomotive is ideally suited for our rail network. It has the horsepower to operate in a heavy haul train consist pulling loaded wagons with 35,000 t of iron ore, while at the same time reducing the entire train’s fuel consumption. The FLXdrive also is designed to function in the extreme heat of the Pilbara region.”
Today, Roy Hill uses four Wabtec ES44ACi “Evolution Series” diesel-electric locomotives in a consist to pull trains that are typically 2.7 km in length. The FLXdrive will replace one of the diesel locomotives to form a hybrid consist, and recharge during the trip through regenerative braking.
The FLXdrive manages the overall train energy flow and distribution through its Trip Optimizer system, an intelligent cruise control system programmed through artificial intelligence to respond to every curve and grade of the track in the most energy-efficient way possible, Wabtec says. It is also designed with a special liquid cooling system to withstand the Pilbara heat, where temperatures can reach 55°C.
Wendy McMillan, Regional Senior Vice President Australia and New Zealand for Wabtec, says: “This order demonstrates Roy Hill’s progressive and forward-thinking approach to the mining industry. By adopting this revolutionary technology in region, Roy Hill is pioneering new approaches to its operations that will benefit the company’s bottom line. The FLXdrive is a continuation of our growing partnership and shared vision to bring more efficient solutions to mining and rail industries.”
Wabtec’s goal is to develop the next generation of zero-emission locomotives. The company says it has a clear path to power new locomotives – and repower existing locomotives – with batteries, hydrogen internal combustion engines and hydrogen fuel cells. It is part of Wabtec’s vision for the rail industry to play a key role in building a clean energy economy and will enable the reduction of up to 300 Mt of global carbon emissions.
Rogerio Mendonca, President of Freight Equipment for Wabtec, says: “Controlling emissions is critical in the fight against climate change. The FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive is a bold step toward a low-to-zero-emission locomotive future. We continue working on solutions that cut the overall carbon footprint of the industries we serve through the development of low-emitting locomotives like the FLXdrive, and the use of alternative fuels such as bio-diesel, renewable diesel and hydrogen.”