Wabtec is to supply Union Pacific with 10 FLXdrive locos

USA: Union Pacific has ordered 20 battery locomotives for trials as part of a plan to create what it says will be the world’s largest fleet of operator-owned battery-electric freight locomotives.

Progress Rail is to supply 10 EMD Joule locos and Wabtec 10 FLXdrive locos. Associated yard enhancements will take the total value of the project to more than $100m, which UP said is ‘the largest investment in battery-electric technology by a US Class I railroad’.

Deliveries are planned to run from late 2023 to late 2024, with the locomotives to be deployed in yards in California and Nebraska to test their performance in cold and warm weather and assess the potential for wider deployment.

Progress Rail is to supply the EMD Joule locomotives from its plant in Muncie, Indiana, in what Chairman & CEO of parent group Caterpillar, Jim Umpleby, said was the company’s largest battery-electric locomotive order to date.

Wabtec’s FLXdrive locos will have 7 000 battery cells and a rating of approximately 2·5 MWh. ‘Battery power is an ideal solution to reduce the environmental impact and costs of yard operations’, said President & CEO Rafael Santana. ‘Using the FLXdrive in the rail yard can significantly improve local air quality, as well as reduce noise by up to 70%.’

Each locomotive is expected to save approximately 360 tonnes of carbon a year compared to a conventional diesel loco, or the equivalent of removing 80 cars from the roads. One of the locos is being partly funded by the Port of Los Angeles using a federal Diesel Emission Reduction Act grant.

UP also hopes to work with the suppliers to advance the development of battery-electric technology and evaluate its potential deployment on long-haul service.

‘We’re committed to actions that reduce Union Pacific’s environmental footprint as we work toward our ultimate goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050’, said UP Chairman, President & CEO Lance Fritz on January 28. ‘These investments will contribute to further developing this important technology and providing industry-wide benefits.’