Wabtec and its launch customer, Roy Hill, have celebrated the debut of the FLXdrive battery locomotive, the world’s first 100% battery-powered, heavy-haul locomotive for mainline service.
The ceremony unveiled the unique, striking pink-coloured locomotive at Wabtec’s design and development centre in Pennsylvania in front of employees, customer executives, and government and community officials.
“This FLXdrive locomotive represents a major step in the journey to a low-to-zero-emission future in the rail industry,” Rafael Santana, President & CEO of Wabtec, said. “The FLXdrive is driven from within by our battery technology and the innovative spirit of our employees. Roy Hill is an ideal customer to partner with given their leadership and excellent operational record.”
Roy Hill’s FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive will feature an energy capacity of 7 MWh. Based on the route and company’s rail operations, the FLXdrive is anticipated to provide a double-digit percentage reduction in fuel costs and emissions per train. Once Wabtec completes the final battery installations and track testing, the locomotive will begin its 17,000 km journey in 2024 for delivery to its new home in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, one of the world’s premier mining precincts.
Gerhard Veldsman, Chief Executive Officer, Hancock Prospecting Group Operations, owner of Roy Hill, said: “The foresight of our Executive Chairman, Mrs Gina Rinehart AO, has been instrumental in establishing an environment in which we can successfully leverage the ingenuity of our people alongside key partners like Wabtec to transform our rail and mining operations through nextgeneration technologies.
“The FLXdrive locomotive represents not only a first for the Pilbara, but a first for the mining industry. The technological smarts that have gone into the development of the loco makes it well suited for our rail network. By using regenerative braking, it will charge its battery on the 344 km downhill run from our mine to port facility and use that stored energy to return to the mine, starting the cycle all over again. This will not only enable us to realise energy efficiencies but also lower operating costs.”
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 carrying more than 33,000 t of iron ore. The addition of the FLXdrive will form a hybrid locomotive consist with Wabtec diesel-electric locomotives, and recharge during the trip through regenerative braking. The FLXdrive manages the overall train energy flow and distribution through its state-of-the-art energy management software. It is also designed with a unique battery thermal management system using liquid cooling to withstand the Pilbara heat, where ambient temperatures can exceed 55°C (131°F).
Roy Hill’s iconic pink livery symbolises the company’s commitment to assisting research and those suffering from breast cancer. To commemorate the FLXdrive’s premiere, Roy Hill, and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Wabtec donated $50,000 to Linked By Pink, a non-profit organisation consisting of Erie area survivors diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 45.