Mining company Rio Tinto has bought four FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives from Wabtec Corporation to support sustainable operations of its rail network in the Pilbara region of WA.
The 100-percent, battery-powered locomotives will help Rio Tinto’s effort to achieve a 50-percent reduction in Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2030.
Rio Tinto Iron Ore Managing Director of Port, Rail and Core Services, Richard Cohen, said the partnership with Wabtec was an investment in innovation and an acknowledgment of the need to increase the pace of decarbonisation efforts.
Rio Tinto ordered the newest version of the FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive, which features an energy capacity of 7 megawatt-hours (MWh). Based on the route from the mine to the port at Dampier in WA and Rio Tinto’s mainline rail operations, the FLXdrive is anticipated to reduce the company’s fuel costs and emissions in percentage by double digits per train.
Wabtec Freight Equipment president Rogerio Mendonca said the FLXdrive is ideally suited to support Rio Tinto’s sustainability targets for the Pilbara.
“This locomotive provides the tractive effort, fuel savings, and emissions reductions to cost-effectively run rail networks in the mining industry. The rapid adoption of the FLXdrive by Rio Tinto and other mining operators demonstrates the industry’s commitment to decarbonising their operations. This solution represents a major step toward achieving zero-emission locomotive fleets in the future.”
Wabtec will deliver the FLXdrive battery locomotives to Rio Tinto in 2023.
The mining company 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 FLXdrives will transition from the diesel locomotives in mainline service to form a hybrid consist, and recharge during the trip through regenerative braking and at charging stations.
Wabtec’s next generation energy-management software system will determine the optimal times to discharge and recharge the batteries along to route ensuring the most fuel-efficient operation of the entire locomotive consist during the trip.
Wabtec continues to build momentum in the mining and rail markets for the FLXdrive battery locomotive. The FLXdrive is the world’s first 100-percent, battery-powered locomotive, and part of Wabtec’s goal to develop the next generation of zero-emission locomotives.
The company has a clear path in the rail industry to power new locomotives – and repower existing locomotives – with batteries, hydrogen internal combustion engines, and hydrogen fuel cells.