Network based systems

The Wabtec FLXdrive battery electric locomotive will work on the Roy Hill rail network in the Pilbara


Posted by Daniel Gleeson on September 15, 2021

Roy Hill in Western Australia has announced the purchase of a Wabtec FLXdrive battery electric locomotive, the world’s first 100% battery powered locomotive for heavy haulage 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, reduce operating costs and improve our rail and mining network,” said Gerhard Veldsman, CEO of Roy Hill. “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 latest version of the FLXdrive battery electric locomotive in 2023 with an energy capacity of 7 MWh. This is an upgrade to the 2.4 MWh prototype that was successfully tested in commercial service with a Class 1 railroad in the United States earlier this year.

Based on Roy Hill’s route and rail operations, the FLXdrive is expected to reduce the company’s fuel costs and emissions by a double-digit percentage per train. Continued use of the FLXdrive will also reduce ongoing operating costs through maintenance expenses.

Simon Pascoe, General Manager of Engineering for Roy Hill, said: “Our analysis with Wabtec confirms that the FLXdrive locomotive is a perfect fit for our rail network. It has the power to operate in a heavy haul train that pulls wagons loaded with 35,000 t of iron ore, while reducing fuel consumption for the entire train. The FLXdrive is also designed to operate in the extreme heat of the Pilbara area.

Today, Roy Hill uses four Wabtec ES44ACi “Evolution Series” diesel-electric locomotives in a set to pull trains with a typical length of 2.7 km. The FLXdrive will replace one of the diesel locomotives to form a hybrid group and will recharge during the journey through regenerative braking.

The FLXdrive manages the overall energy flow and distribution of the train through its Trip Optimizer system, an intelligent cruise control system programmed through artificial intelligence to respond to every curve and level of the track in the most efficient way. energy efficient possible, explains Wabtec. It is also designed with a special liquid cooling system to withstand the heat of Pilbara, where temperatures can reach 55 ° C.

Wendy McMillan, Regional Senior Vice President Australia and New Zealand for Wabtec, said: “This order demonstrates Roy Hill’s progressive and forward-thinking approach to the mining industry. By embracing this revolutionary technology in the region, Roy Hill is pioneering new approaches to its operations that will benefit the bottom line. The FLXdrive is a continuation of our growing partnership and our shared vision to provide more efficient solutions to the 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 powering new locomotives – and re-fueling existing locomotives – with batteries, hydrogen internal combustion engines and hydrogen fuel cells. This is part of Wabtec’s vision for the rail industry to play a key role in building a clean energy economy and will reduce up to 300 Mt of carbon emissions globally.

Rogerio Mendonca, President of Freight Equipment for Wabtec, says: “Emissions control is essential in the fight against climate change. The FLXdrive battery electric locomotive is a bold step towards the future of a low-to-zero emission locomotive. We continue to work on solutions that reduce the overall carbon footprint of the industries we serve through the development of low-emission locomotives like the FLXdrive and the use of alternative fuels such as biodiesel, renewable diesel and hydrogen. .

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