Roy Hill, an Australian iron ore mining giant, has committed to invest in a new emission-free locomotive in September 2021. Since then, Wabtec has been developing FLXdrive, a battery-powered locomotive with power output sufficient for heavy trains in Western Australia. On the last day of October 2023, the first locomotive was unveiled in Pennsylvania.
The new locomotive is visually equal to Wabtec’s ES44ACi “Evolution Series” diesel-electric locomotives used for 33,000-tonne heavy iron ore trains from Pilbara mines to the coast. These trains are 2.7 km long and operate in scorching heat of up to 55°C. The battery locomotive features an energy capacity of 7 megawatt hours (MWh), and it is the first of its kind for the mining industry.
Roy Hill’s FLXdrive locomotive, featuring the iconic pink livery symbolising the mining company's dedication to assisting breast cancer research, will operate on the 344-kilometre stretch of rail using the natural conditions to the maximum. When moving the fully loaded train, it will use regenerative braking to charge its batteries on the downhill run. It will then use the accumulated power to pull the empty trainset back up the hill to the Pilbara mines.