US locomotive and railcar manufacturer Wabtec and Roy Hill, an Australian iron ore mining company, recently debuted the FLXdrive battery locomotive at Wabtec’s Pennsylvania design and development center.
The locomotive has an energy capacity of 7 MWh and is expected to provide a double-digit-percentage reduction in fuel costs and emissions per train. After final battery installation and track testing, it will be delivered to Roy Hill facilities in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
Currently, Roy Hill uses four Wabtec ES44ACi diesel-electric locomotives in a consist to pull trains that are typically 1.6 miles in length and carry more than 36,000 tons of iron ore. Adding the FLXdrive will form a hybrid locomotive consist with the diesel-electrics and provide recharging through regenerative braking. The FLXdrive’s energy management software is designed to control the overall train energy flow and distribution, and its thermal management system uses liquid cooling to withstand Pilbara temperatures that can reach 130° F.
“By using regenerative braking, the FLXdrive will charge its battery on the 214-mile downhill run from our mine to the 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 realize energy efficiencies but also lower operating costs,” said Gerhard Veldsman, CEO of Group Operations at Hancock Prospecting, the majority owner of Roy Hill.