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Wabtec and Roy Hill debut FLXdrive battery locomotive; 100% battery-powered, heavy-haul freight locomotive for mainline service

Wabtec and its launch customer, Roy Hill, a leading iron ore miner majority-owned by Australia’s Hancock Prospecting, have unveiled the FLXdrive battery locomotive, the first 100% battery-powered, heavy-haul locomotive for mainline service.


FLXdrive battery locomotive. This locomotive has been painted pink (as are all locomotives produced for Roy Hill) in recognizing the iron ore mining powerhouse’s commitment to breast cancer awareness.

Roy Hill’s FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive will feature an energy capacity of 7 megawatt hours (MWh). Based on the route and company’s rail operations, the FLXdrive is anticipated to provide a double-digit percentage reduction in fuel costs and emissions per train.

Once Wabtec completes the final battery installations and track testing, the locomotive will begin its 17,000-kilometer (10,500-mile) journey in 2024 for delivery to its new home in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, one of the world’s premier mining precincts.

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 344 kilometer (214 mile) 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 realize energy efficiencies but also lower operating costs.

—Gerhard Veldsman, Chief Executive Officer, Hancock Prospecting Group Operations

Today, Roy Hill uses four Wabtec ES44ACi “Evolution Series” diesel-electric locomotives in a consist to pull trains that are typically 2,700 meters (1.6 miles) in length carrying more than 33,000 tonnes of iron ore. The addition of the FLXdrive will form a hybrid locomotive consist 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 Pilbara heat, where temperatures can reach 55°C (130°F).


Thomas Pedersen

Just thinking about battery cars as the first cars behind the locomotives, possibly even with containerized batteries for rapid replacement.

The European MW charging (1250V, 3000 A = 3,75 MWe) standard is for easily handled cables, however cooled AFAIK. This means that range could be extended pretty much indefinitely.

Imagine a locomotive with batteries, motors, traction and controls. Then behind that, heavy, unmanned cars with batteries and traction motors (because why not when they are not part of the freight, meaning they are owned by the transport provider).

Alternatively, the MWC protocol could be used to supply battery power from battery cars to the locomotive.

With such a design, battery operation suddenly becomes within the realm of possibilities.

Additionally, diesel generator cars could be added, but generating just DC power to an entirely DC-infrastructure on the train for traction power.


Good Ideas, particularly using a DC Power infrastructure to charge the Battery Rail Cars!
Hybrid Freight Trains look like a promising technology bringing Railways into the 21st century, reducing GHG and possibly taking long range freight from Trucks. Plus, the diesel locomotives could use renewable fuels reducing GHG even more.

Modular Battery “Tender Cars”make sense and could use existing battery technology. In addition, individual rail cars could also be self driving. Two startups in the US are looking into this setup - Parallel Systems and Intramotev.
Some references:
Parallel Systems - and
Intramotev -,in%20trucks%2C%20dramatically%20shrinking%20emissions
Modular Battery Tender Cars -


Progress Rail, A Caterpillar Company is offering the EMD Joule with up to 14.5 MWhr.

@Thomas, what you are proposing could be done but what I expect will happen is that the railroads will install sections of catenary especially on grades where the locomotives typically run at full power. One of the advantages of having the batteries is that existing bridges and tunnels do not need to be modified for catenary. A major reason that I expect this technology to prevail is the cost of electric power compared to diesel fuel. However, a major problem with increased electrification, is that the electric power and transmission infrastructure must be expanded. What I do not expect is the wide spread use of hydrogen fuel cells as this requires about twice the energy as battery electric.

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