BNSF testing battery-electric locomotive

by Inside Logistics Online Staff
(Image: Screen shot from BNSF video)

FORT WORTH, Texas – BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) and Wabtec are testing a battery-electric locomotive in revenue service between Barstow and Stockton, California.

The battery-powered locomotive will be situated between two Tier 4 locomotives, creating a battery-electric hybrid consist (railroading terminology for a grouping of cars). When running on the mainline, both the battery-electric and diesel locomotives will power the train. Watch Wabtec’s battery-electric locomotive video for more details on how it works.

“We’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to see how this next-generation locomotive performs in revenue service,” said John Lovenburg, BNSF vice-president, environmental.

“BNSF is focused on continuing to reduce our environmental impact, and we’re committed to doing our part to test and assess the commercial viability of emerging technologies that reduce emissions.”

Reduce emissions and improve fuel economy

The battery-electric locomotive is expected to reduce the environmental impact from emissions along the route, while improving the fuel economy for the entire consist by at least 10 percent. The pilot test will run from January until the end of March.

If the pilot proves successful, BNSF will look to expand testing to other locations and operating conditions on its system.

This initiative builds on BNSF’s existing sustainable technologies that include idle control, electric wide-span cranes, battery-electric hostlers, automated gates at its intermodal facilities, and Tier 4 locomotives.

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

Regenerative braking

“The FLXdrive is the world’s first 100-percent, heavy-haul battery-electric locomotive that optimizes the total energy utilization of the entire locomotive consist,” said Alan Hamilton, Wabtec vice-president, engineering.

“This technology works in a manner very similar to how electric vehicles use regenerative braking. It’s a significant step forward for the rail industry and will change the course for even cleaner, more energy-efficient transport.”

The battery-electric locomotive pilot program is part of a US$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 (ZANZEFF) project by the California Air Resource Board to pilot several emissions-reducing technologies in and around railyards.

The ZANZEFF project is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

BNSF operates approximately 32,500 route miles of track in 28 states and also operates in three Canadian provinces.

Wabtec Corporation is a global provider of equipment, systems, digital solutions and value-added services for freight and transit rail. Wabtec has approximately 27,000 employees in facilities throughout the world.