Home Optimal energy World’s second-largest mining company orders four Wabtec battery-powered electric locomotives

World’s second-largest mining company orders four Wabtec battery-powered electric locomotives

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Rail freight maker Wabtec Corporation has announced that its latest customer is Rio Tinto, one of the largest metallurgical and mining companies on the planet. Rio Tinto’s order for four of Wabtec’s FLXdrive battery-powered electric locomotives will support its efforts to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

Wabtec Corporation ($ WAB) is a manufacturer and freight company with over 150 years of locomotive expertise. That being said, the veteran’s journey to electrification only started recently in comparison. Last June, we covered news from Wabtec’s California pilot program for its FLXdrive battery-powered electric freight locomotive.

The prototype locomotive provided 2.4 MWh of power capacity from more than 20,000 lithium-ion battery cells. As a result, the FLX prototype could reach speeds of around 75 mph and travel 350 miles. Wabtec has been able to deliver much higher capacities since, and a collaboration with General Motors to develop and implement GM’s Ultium battery technology in future electric locomotives looks promising for further performance improvements.

Last September, Wabtec announced that its first FLXdrive electric locomotive sold would go to Roy Hill for iron mining in Australia. This was followed by news in November that the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) had purchased its own battery-powered electric locomotive FLXdrive, the first to join its 19,500 mile rail network.

Someone below must have been paying attention to the Roy Hill news last year, as Wabtec just landed its biggest electric locomotive order to date, run by another Australian mining company.

The 100% electric FLXdrive locomotive / Source: Wabtec Corp.

Rio Tinto to reduce mining emissions with Wabtec electric locomotives

Wabtec today announced the news of the purchase from Rio Tinto, which includes four of the latest versions of the FLXdrive freight trains. According to Wabtec, its most recent electric locomotives have an energy capacity of 7 MWh, nearly triple the capacity of the prototype launched more than a year ago.

Based on Rio Tinto’s planned route from its mine to the port of Dampier in Western Australia, the new FLXdrives are expected to reduce the company’s fuel costs and emissions by double-digit percent per train. Richard Cohen, general manager of port, rail and basic iron ore services at Rio Tinto, spoke about the purchase:

Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and a recognition of the need to step up the pace of our decarbonization efforts. By locking this in now, we are making progress in our efforts to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.

Rio Tinto said it will use the FLXdrive locomotives to switch from diesel versions to main duty, recharging on each trip through regenerative braking and recharging stations.

In addition to supplying the electric locomotives, Wabtec will also implement its energy management software system to help Rio Tinto determine the optimal times to discharge and recharge freight batteries along a given route.

Wabtec has announced the delivery of the FLXdrive battery electric locomotives to Rio Tinto in 2023.

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