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Rail News: Mechanical

BNSF, Wabtec begin testing battery-electric locomotive

The battery-powered locomotive will be situated in a consist between two Tier 4 locomotives, creating a battery-electric hybrid consist.
Photo – BNSF Railway Co.


BNSF Railway Co. and Wabtec Corp. yesterday announced they've begun testing a battery-electric locomotive in revenue service between Barstow and Stockton, California.

The test is part of the companies' efforts to explore the future of battery-electric locomotives. As BNSF seeks ways to further reduce its environmental impact, the advancement of battery technology offers some possible solutions, BNSF officials said in a press release.

"We've got everything in place and we're ready to see how this next-generation locomotive performs in revenue service," said BNSF Vice President of Environmental John Lovenburg.

The battery-powered locomotive will be situated in a consist between two Tier 4 locomotives, creating a battery-electric hybrid consist. When running on the mainline, both the battery-electric and diesel locomotives will power the train. The pilot test will run from this month through March. If the pilot is successful, BNSF officials will consider expanding the testing to other locations and operating conditions on the Class I's system.

Wabtec has produced a video to demonstrate how the process works.

BNSF partnered with Wabtec on the development of the battery-electric locomotive, which features an overall energy-management system, including onboard energy storage that, when coupled with advanced system-optimization controls, will improve consist and train performance.

"The FLXdrive is the world's first 100% heavy-haul battery-electric locomotive that optimizes the total energy utilization of the entire locomotive consist," said Wabtec Vice President of Engineering Alan Hamilton. "This technology works in a manner very similar to how electric vehicles use regenerative braking. It's a significant step forward for the rial industry and will change the course for even cleaner, more energy-efficient transportation."

The pilot program is part of a $22.6 million grant awarded to BNSF and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District from the Zero- and Near Zero-Emission Freight Facilities project by the California Air Resource Board to pilot emissions-reducing technologies in and around rail yards.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/5/2021