Wabtec receives orders for six FLXdrive battery locomotives for delivery in 2023

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Wabtec Corporation has announced two new orders for its FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives, which will help increase the pace of decarbonization efforts in the rail sector.

First, Rio Tinto, a mining and metals company operating in 35 countries around the world, announced an order for four FLXdrive locomotives to support sustainable operations of the mining company’s rail network in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The 100%, battery-powered locomotive will help Rio Tinto’s effort to achieve a 50% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2030.

Second, BHP Western Australia Iron Ore (WAIO) has ordered two FLXdrive locomotives to support the Australia-based natural resource company’s plan to decarbonize its rail network. BHP has also order two battery-electric locomotives from its current provider Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company.

A full transition to battery-electric locomotives would reduce BHP’s WA iron ore diesel-related carbon emissions by approximately 30% annually.

Both Rio Tinto and BHP have ordered the newest version of the FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive, which features an energy capacity of 7 megawatt-hours (MWh). The FLXdrive is anticipated to reduce the companies’ fuel costs and emissions in percentage by double digits per train.

Wabtec will deliver the FLXdrive battery locomotives to Rio Tinto and BHP in 2023. Rio Tinto plans on using the locomotives in multiple applications including as a shunter in the railyard and ultimately in mainline service. In mainline operations, Rio Tinto currently uses three diesel-electric locomotives in a consist to pull trains with 240 cars hauling about 28,000 tons of iron ore.

“The FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive represents the future of sustainable rail operations,” said Rogerio Mendonca, president of freight equipment for Wabtec. “The rail and mining industries are on the cusp of technological advancements to equip customers with zero-emission locomotive fleets. The FLXdrive is a major step toward eventually achieving that vision.”

Meanwhile, BHP currently uses four diesel-electric locomotives in a consist to pull trains comprised of approximately 270 cars carrying 38,000 tons of iron ore. For both BHP and Rio Tinto, the FLXdrives will join the diesel locomotives to form a hybrid consist, and recharge during the trip through regenerative braking.

Wabtec’s next generation energy-management system will determine the optimal times to discharge and recharge the batteries along the routes ensuring the most fuel-efficient operation of the entire locomotive consist during the trip.