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Australian companies actively purchase battery locomotives

25 January 2022
Reading time ~ 3 min
FLXdrive battery locomotive by Wabtec
FLXdrive battery locomotive by Wabtec. Source: Wabtec
Belov Sergey, Editor-in-Chief, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency
Reading time ~ 3 min
Litvintsova Olga, Editor of International Projects, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency

Australia: In early 2022, Wabtec and Progress Rail (part of Caterpillar) announced orders for battery-powered locomotives from several Australian mining companies.

Thus, BHP Group signed a contract with Wabtec for the supply of 2 FLXdrive battery locomotives. The company will receive a new modification of the locomotive with a battery capacity of 7 MWh for driving trains weighing 38,000 tons coupled with several diesel locomotives. The locomotives are planned to be equipped with an energy management system that will automatically determine the charging time using regenerative braking energy and battery operation in order to increase the energy efficiency of the rolling stock. The locomotive should be sent to the client in 2023.

The FLXdrive will also be supplied to Rio Tinto. The company ordered 4 locomotives both for cargo transportation in the Pilbara region in Western Australia and for shunting operations. Delivery is scheduled for 2023.

Wabtec started developing FLXdrive in 2018. Two years later, a locomotive project was presented: its power was declared at the level of 3,200 kW. In 2020-2021, the unit was tested on the BNSF network in California as part of trains that also included a pair of diesel locomotives with Tier 4 diesel engines. Last year, the first buyers appeared for the locomotive. One FLXdrive was ordered by Australian iron ore miner Roy Hill last September. Delivery is scheduled for 2024. Another was purchased by the Canadian National railway operator in November that year.

Render of the EMD Joule battery locomotive for Fortescue Metals Group Render of the EMD Joule battery locomotive for Fortescue Metals Group. Source: Progress Rail

In turn, Progress Rail has received an order from Fortescue Metals Group for the delivery in 2023 of 2 EMD Joule battery locomotives with a battery capacity of 14.5 MWh for operation on main lines in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The rolling stock will be produced at the Progress Rail plant in Seti Lagoas, Brazil. Previously, the company reported on the development of EMD Joule for the Vale mining company in Brazil and for Pacific Harbor Line in the USA. As IRJ reported in the spring of 2021, the EMD Joule locomotive in Brazil was already driving trains weighing up to 9,000 tons to the port five times a day at a maximum speed of 80 km/h.