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Wabtec’s battery-electric locomotive lowered full train fuel consumption by more than 11% in BNSF California pilot

Wabtec Corporation announced that its FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive—functioning as one unit in a consist also containing two Tier 4 locomotives—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.


These outcomes are the result of a three-month pilot with BNSF Railway (earlier post), the largest railroad in the US, in which the FLXdrive was put to the test in revenue service across more than 13,320 miles of hilly terrain in San Joaquin Valley, California —a territory surrounded by mountains. The region is classified as a non-attainment area, where the air quality is worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive is a defining moment for freight rail and will accelerate the industry toward low- to zero-emission locomotives. 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. At more than 6 megawatt hours, Wabtec’s next version of FLXdrive technology will have an opportunity to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 30 percent—putting the industry on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation improvement in energy savings and emission reductions.

—Eric Gebhardt, Wabtec Chief Technology Officer

The California pilot program was part of a $22.6-million grant from the California Air Resource Board (CARB) awarded to Wabtec, BNSF and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The 430,000-pound FLXdrive in the pilot features 18,000 lithium-ion battery cells. The battery locomotive charged at the rail yard and recharged during the trip through regenerative braking.


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.

Wabtec’s next step is to build a second-generation locomotive with a battery capacity of more than 6 megawatt hours—a level of energy that can reduce a locomotive consist’s fuel consumption and carbon 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.

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 reduce carbon emissions globally by up to 300 tons per year.



Game Changing combined with next up H2 locomotives using cheap $1.5/kg H2 coming soon.


If they can build a 6 mW locomotive, then it would run almost 2 hours at full power. Wabtec's diesel locomotives are rated at 4400 hp ( 3280 mW) for tractive power. Next string segments of catenary where the traffic and power usage is high and you can run without diesel or hydrogen. Maybe hydrogen fuel cell locomotives will happen but I would bet against it for 2 main reasons -- the inefficiency and cost of using hydrogen compared with straight electric and the difficulties of dealing with either high pressure or liquid hydrogen. BNSF already tried using a lower power fuel cell/battery locomotive in 2008 and gave up after a short trial period

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