First FLXdrive Battery Locomotive Hits The Rails

Wabtec, a transportation solutions company, and Roy Hill, an iron ore operation in Western Australia, have celebrated the debut of the FLXdrive battery locomotive, the world’s first 100% battery-powered, heavy-haul locomotive for mainline service.

“This FLXdrive locomotive represents a major step in the journey to a low- to zero-emissions future in the rail industry,” said Rafael Santana, president and chief executive officer of Wabtec. “The FLXdrive is driven from within by our battery technology. Roy Hill is an ideal customer to partner with given their leadership and excellent operational record.”

FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive features an energy capacity of 7 MW-hr. Using regenerative braking, the locomotive will charge its battery on the 214 mile (344 km) downhill run from Roy Hill’s mine to port facility and use the stored energy to return to the mine, starting the cycle all over again.

Roy Hill currently uses four Wabtec ES44ACi Evolution Series diesel-electric locomotives in a consist to pull trains that are typically 1.6 miles (2700 m) in length carrying more than 36,000 tons (33,000 tonnes) of iron ore. The addition of the FLXdrive will form a hybrid locomotive 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 energy management software. It is also designed with a unique battery thermal management system using liquid cooling to withstand the heat in Australia’s Pilbara region, where temperatures can reach 130°F (55°C).