Four Wabtec FLXdrive battery-powered electric locomotives will begin service in 2023 along mining company Rio Tinto’s Western Australian rail network, the automaker said on January 10.
Rio Tinto will use the locomotives in the mineral-rich Pilbara region to help it “reduce carbon emissions from scopes 1 and 2 by 50% by 2030,” according to Wabtec.
On order is the most recent version of the FLXdrive battery electric unit, which has an energy capacity of 7 megawatt hours (MWh). Applications will include switching and ultimately trunk line service.
“In mainline operations, Rio Tinto currently uses three diesel-electric locomotives in a batch to pull trains with 240 cars carrying around 28,000 tonnes of iron ore,” Wabtec said. “The FLXdrives will switch from diesel locomotives in mainline service to a hybrid package and will recharge during the trip using regenerative braking and charging stations. Wabtec’s next-generation energy management software system will determine the optimum times for discharging and recharging the batteries along the route, ensuring the most fuel-efficient operation of the entire locomotive during the journey.
Based on the mine-to-Dampier port route and Rio Tinto’s mainline operations, the FLXdrive is expected to reduce the company’s fuel costs and emissions as a “double-digit” percentage per train, according to Wabtec.
“Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and a recognition of the need to step up the pace of our decarbonization efforts,” said Richard Cohen, general manager of port, rail and base services at Rio Tinto Iron Ore. .
“We are proud to continue our long-standing relationship with Rio Tinto and support their efforts to reduce emissions and operating costs with the FLXdrive battery locomotive,” said Wendy McMillan, Wabtec Regional Senior Vice President for Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
“The rapid adoption of FLXdrive by Rio Tinto and other mining operators demonstrates the industry’s commitment to decarbonize their operations,” said Rogerio Mendonca, president of Wabtec Freight Equipment. “This solution represents a major step towards achieving zero-emission locomotive fleets in the future. “
In September, Australian iron ore mining company Roy Hill announced that it would take delivery of a single FLXdrive unit. The company currently uses four Wabtec ES44ACi Evolution Series diesel-electric locomotives in an assembly to tow unit trains typically 1.6 miles in length. The FLXdrive is expected to replace one of the diesel locomotives to form a hybrid group.
Separately, CN announced in November that it was purchasing an FLXdrive unit for use on the Bessemer & Lake Erie portion of its network in Pennsylvania. Class I railroad said Age of the railway that it “plans to maximize the use of the locomotive, starting with switching activities in a yard, then possibly carrying out operations over short distances”.