Wabtec and Rio Tinto have inked a deal to deliver four of the manufacturer’s battery-electric locomotives to the miner’s rail lines in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, pushing Rio toward its goal to halve its Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions by 2030.

The FLXdrive locomotive. Photo: Wabtec

Financial details were not released for four of the company’s newest version of the FLXdrive locomotive, which have an energy capacity of 7 megawatt-hours. The 100% battery-powered units are expected to be delivered to Rio Tinto in 2023.

“Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and an acknowledgment of the need to increase the pace of our decarbonization efforts,” said Rio Tinto Iron Ore Managing Director of Port, Rail and Core Services Richard Cohen. 

“By locking this in now, we are making progress in our efforts.”

Wabtec said that, based on the route from the mine to the port at Dampier in Western Australia 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. 

Moreover, President of Freight Equipment Rogerio Mendonca added, the FLXdrive is “ideally suited” to support Rio Tinto’s sustainability targets in the Pilbara.

“This locomotive provides the tractive effort, fuel savings, and emissions reductions to cost-effectively run rail networks in the mining industry,” he noted. “The rapid adoption of the FLXdrive by Rio Tinto and other mining operators demonstrates the industry’s commitment to decarbonizing their operations [and] this solution represents a major step toward achieving zero-emission locomotive fleets in the future.” 

Wabtec said Rio Tinto will use the locomotives in multiple applications, including as a shunter in the railyard and, ultimately, in mainline service. For the latter, the miner now 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 officials said.

“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.” 

FLXdrive is the world’s first 100%, battery-powered locomotive, and an element of Wabtec’s mission to develop the next generation of zero-emission locomotives. 

Source: Wabtec