Wabtec’s FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive cuts freight train fuel use by 11%

An American company Wabtec Corporation showcases the rail industry’s first battery-electric locomotive that reduces the environmental impact of freight transport. The FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive was used as part of a hybrid system for three months of testing, during which it delivered more than an 11% average reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for an entire train – the equivalent of more than 6,200 gallons of diesel fuel saved and approximately 69 tons of CO2 emissions reduced.

Described as the world’s first 100% battery-powered locomotive, the Wabtec FLXdrive uses 18,000 lithium-ion battery cells to power all four axles and uses intelligent energy flow management to optimize efficiency. The 2.4 megawatt-hours system can be charged in the depot in the same way as an electric vehicle but also uses a regenerative braking system to recharge while on the move.

The FLXdrive manages the overall train energy flow and distribution through its Trip Optimizer system, an intelligent cruise control system programmed through artificial intelligence to respond to every twist and grade of the track in the most energy-efficient way possible.

The FLXdrive was put to the test in revenue service across more than 13,320 miles of hilly terrain in San Joaquin Valley, California.

The FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive is a defining moment for freight rail and will accelerate the industry toward low- to zero-emission locomotives,” said Eric Gebhardt, Wabtec Chief Technology Officer. “It builds upon the rail industry’s position as the most efficient and sustainable mode of transportation. Building on our long history of pioneering train energy management technologies, this demonstration of coupling 2.4 megawatt-hours of battery storage into the mix fully validated our assumptions for the potential for this next-generation technology to further drive efficiencies and greenhouse gas reductions.

Wabtec’s next step is to build a second-generation locomotive with a battery capacity of more than 6-megawatt hours. Its next version of FLXdrive technology will have an opportunity to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30%, even while hauling several thousand tons of freight in a mile-long train.

A fleet of second-generation FLXdrives will be commercialized and could enter supply chain routes in the next few years.

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