After Buying Some F1 Knowledge, Fortescue Is Racing Ahead With Battery-Electric Trains

After Buying Some F1 Knowledge, Fortescue Is Racing Ahead With Battery-Electric Trains
Image: Fortescue Metals Group Ltd

Fortescue Metals Group, the mining giant known in Australia for iron ore, is looking to be known for a little more, scooping up a company famous in the Formula 1 world, one that is working on battery-powered electric trains.

On Monday, Fortescue announced it was buying Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), a UK-based provider of battery and electrification technologies. The deal is setting Fortescue back £164 million – a cool $310 million.

Once the deal is finalised, WAE will slot into Fortescue Future Industries, which is the mining giant’s green energy/green tech arm. But as it kicks off, the companies are getting started on a “battery electric train concept”.

“One of the first major projects to be developed will be a world leading battery electric train concept. Fortescue and FFI [Fortescue Future Industries] will announce further details on this early in 2022,” the company told its shareholders.

Before the deal was even announced, both companies had been working together on designing and building a prototype battery system to power an electric mining haul truck. It’s an important first step in the decarbonisation of Fortescue’s mining haul fleet.

If you’ve heard the name Williams Advanced Engineering before, it’s likely because the company was born out of Williams F1 in 2010. WAE has an interest in automotive, motorsport, defence, aerospace, life science and healthcare. But in recent years, WAE’s focus has been on electrifying vehicles across different industries, particularly through the development of battery modules and battery management systems.

“The acquisition of WAE provides critical technology and expertise in high-performance battery systems and electrification and will enable Fortescue to accelerate and support the decarbonisation of Fortescue’s mining operations,” Fortescue says.

In addition to the battery-electric train concept, the pair will be developing electric battery solutions for Fortescue’s mobile haul fleet and other heavy mining equipment to “accelerate the rapid abatement of diesel usage” to “achieve the decarbonisation of Fortescue’s mining operations by 2030”.