Rio Tinto to charge up with Wabtec

Wabtec Corporation battery-electric train

Image: Wabtec Corporation

Rio Tinto will purchase four battery-electric trains from Wabtec Corporation for use in the Pilbara region of Western Australia as part of its strategy to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030.

The four seven-megawatt-hour FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives from Wabtec will be used to carry ore from Rio Tinto’s mines to its ports and will be recharged at purpose-built charging stations at the port or mine.

The locomotives will also be capable of generating additional energy while in transit through a regenerative braking system which takes energy from the train and uses it to recharge the onboard batteries.

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.

“Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and an acknowledgement of the need to increase the pace of our decarbonisation efforts,” Rio Tinto managing director of port, rail and core services Richard Cohen said.

“Battery-electric locomotives offer significant potential for emissions reduction in the near term as we seek to reduce our scope one and two carbon emissions in the Pilbara by 50 per cent by 2030.”

In mainline operations, Rio Tinto currently uses three diesel-electric locomotives in a consist to pull trains with 240 cars hauling about 28,000 tons of iron ore.

“Rio Tinto is a progressive leader in the mining industry adopting advanced technologies necessary to drive sustainable, efficient operations that deliver results for its customers, shareholders, and communities,” Wabtec regional senior vice president Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand Wendy McMillan said.

This announcement follows Wabtec’s recent partnership with Roy Hill for the world’s first fully battery-powered, heavy-haul locomotive, and the testing of its mining collision awareness system (CAS) vehicle intervention solution with Komatsu haul trucks.

Production is due to commence in the United States in 2023 ahead of initial trials in the Pilbara in early 2024 tested against a range of safety and functional criteria, including integration with AutoHaul.

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