AUSTRALIAN heavy-haul rail and port operator Roy Hill has ordered a FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive from Wabtec for use on its 344km 1435mm-gauge iron-ore railway in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The locomotive will have a capacity of 7MWh and is an upgrade on the 2.4MWh prototype tested by United States Class 1 BNSF in California earlier this year. The FLXdrive locomotive will replace one of Roy Hill’s four ES44ACi diesel-electric locomotives also supplied by Wabtec to form a hybrid consist with another diesel unit to haul up to 2700m-long trains. Delivery is expected in 2023.

The locomotive’s battery will recharge during the trip using regenerative braking. The FLXdrive manages the overall energy flow through its Trip Optimiser system while an intelligent cruise control system programmed using Artificial Intelligence is able to respond to curves and changes in grade to maximise energy efficiency. The locomotive will also feature a liquid cooling system in order to continue operating effectively in the extreme temperatures experienced in the Pilbara, which can reach 55°C.

Wabtec says that based on the route and Roy Hill’s current operations, the FLXdrive system is expected to reduce the company’s fuel costs and emissions by “double digit” percentages for each train operated.

“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,” says Mr 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.”

The July 2021 edition of IRJ includes a detailed feature on Wabtec’s work on the FLXdrive battery locomotive project in California. Website subscribers can read the feature here.

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