Wabtec and Roy Hill unveil the first FLXdrive battery locomotive

The world’s first 100 per cent battery-powered, heavy-haul freight locomotive for mainline service (Image: Supplied).

Article by Olivia Thomson courtesy of Australian Mining.

Wabtec Corporation and Hancock Prospecting subsidiary Roy Hill have celebrated the debut of the FLXdrive battery locomotive at a ceremony held at Wabtec’s design and development centre in Pennsylvania, US.

The FLXdrive battery locomotive is the world’s first 100 per cent battery-powered, heavy-haul locomotive for a mainline service. It has a pink design to symbolise Roy Hill’s commitment to assisting in breast cancer research and those suffering from the illness.

“This FLXdrive locomotive represents a major step in the journey to a low-to-zero-emission future in the rail industry,” Wabtec president and chief executive officer (CEO) Rafael Santana 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.”

The locomotive will feature an energy capacity of seven megawatt hours and is expected to provide a double-digit percentage reduction in fuel costs and emissions per train based on Roy Hill’s route and rail operations.

Once Wabtec completes the final battery installations and track testing, the locomotive will begin its 17,000km journey in 2024 for delivery to its new home in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

“The foresight of our executive chairman Gina Rinehart 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 next-generation technologies,” Hancock Prospecting group operations CEO Gerhard Veldsman said.

“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 344km 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.”