Rail freight manufacturer Wabtec Corporation, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, has officially unveiled the newest version of what it calls “the world’s first 100% battery-electric freight train.” Known as FLXdrive, the battery-electric locomotive is no longer just a prototype and has made its official debut in Pittsburgh, PA, following Wabtec’s first sale of the locomotive earlier this week.
The train’s battery-powered electric powertrain can be paired with a traditional diesel engine to reduce fuel consumption by over 11%, leading to an 11% reduction in carbon emissions – the equivalent of more than 6,200 gallons of diesel fuel saved and approximately 69 tons of CO2 emissions reduced.
Earlier this year, the FLXdrive completed a successful trial run in California, traveling for three months and 13,000 miles (20,920 km) between Barstow and Stockton. The California pilot program was part of a $22.6 million grant from the California Air Resource Board awarded to Wabtec, BNSF Railway, and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
The battery-electric locomotive is capable of hauling 430,000 pounds (195,045 kg). The prototype freight train delivers 22.5 tons of energy capacity (2.4 MWh) from over 20,000 lithium-ion battery cells. This allows the FLX prototype to reach speeds around 75 mph (120 km/h) and travel 350 miles (563 km).
In addition to the pilot program, Wabtec also announced a collaboration with General Motors (GM) to develop and implement GM’s Ultium battery technology into Wabtec’s freight locomotives. Most recently, Wabtec sold its very first FLXdrive electric train to Roy Hill. It will receive the newest version of the FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive in 2023 with an energy capacity of 7 MWh, which Wabtec says could reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions by up to 30%, even while hauling several thousand tons of freight in a mile-long train.
Wabtec’s goal is to develop the next generation of zero-emission locomotives. The company has a clear path to power new locomotives – and repower existing locomotives – with batteries, hydrogen internal combustion engines, and hydrogen fuel cells. It is part of Wabtec’s vision for the rail industry to play a key role in building a clean energy economy and will enable the reduction of up to 300 million tons of global carbon emissions.