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Australia's gravity-powered train that infinitely recharges.

In March 2022, Fortescue Metals Group, an Australian iron ore mining company, completed its acquisition of Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), a company specializing in energy-efficient performance solutions.

© Marie Fontaine -

To mark the start of their collaboration, WAE and Fortescue are presenting their first zero CO2 emission gravity powered train project.

Called the "Infinity Train", it will be used to transport iron ore and will support Fortescue's strategy to become a major player in green industrial transportation.

To make the project a success, the group announced it has set up a $50 million program to develop a novel technology to be deployed on the Infinity Train: regenerative electric batteries.

"High performance batteries and electrification systems are at the heart of what we do and now that we are part of the Fortescue family, it presents an exciting opportunity to develop new technologies as we work together to tackle climate change" said WAE CEO Craig Wilson

The Infinity Train will use gravity to charge its battery-powered electrical system. In other words, braking will convert the train's kinetic energy into electricity.

Fortescue's mine in Eliwana, Western Australia - Fortescue Metals Group
Fortescue's mine in Eliwana, Western Australia - Fortescue Metals Group

The project designers estimated that the network - in the direction the train is charged - has enough downhill grades and therefore braking opportunities to charge the battery. During the return trip, the train will be so much lighter that the required power will not need any additional charging.

This type of braking is already used in some electric and hybrid vehicle models.

Through the development of this technology, the company intends to reduce CO2 emissions while eliminating diesel from its rail operations. Currently, Fortescue has approximately 54 locomotives transporting 34,404 tons of iron ore per year across its network. A job that requires a large amount of fossil fuels. In 2021 alone, the company consumed 82 million liters of diesel, or 11 percent of the group's direct greenhouse gas emissions.

"The world must, and clearly can, move out of the highly polluting and deadly fossil fuel era" said Dr. Andrew Forrest, founder and president of Fortescue Future Industries (FFI).

This project is also expected to significantly reduce operating and maintenance costs on rail lines, creating productivity opportunities.

Fortescue's mine in Eliwana, Western Australia - Fortescue Metals Group
Fortescue's mine in Eliwana, Western Australia - Fortescue Metals Group

Scheduled for 2024, the train is expected to be implemented across the company's operations, allowing it to go diesel-free and systematize the use of its Infinity Train by 2030.

Fortescue then hopes to promote its project globally.

This isn't Fortescue's first green initiative either: it is currently converting its mining haulage trucks to run on hydrogen fuel cells.

These kinds of initiatives are welcome, as we mustn't forget that the mining industry is still very polluting.

Let's hope that in the future, they will also be able to use a hydrogen-based technology for their future fleet of Infinity Trains and thus eliminate the use of batteries!

Finally, while the Infinity Train project is not yet in place, other companies and observers are already considering building similar projects. It is also a question of knowing in which markets this technology could work.


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