BNSF & Wabtec begin battery-electric locomotive test in California

BNSF Railway Company, a freight railroad network, and Wabtec, a value-added service provider, have recently begun the battery-electric locomotive test in California. This battery technology advancement is expected to aid in the company’s target to curb the environmental impact.

According to BNSF’s Vice President of Engineering, John Lovenburg, the company is excited to witness the performance of the next-gen locomotive in revenue service. It also aims at continuously lowering the environmental impacts by assessing and testing the commercial viability of the emerging technologies.

The new locomotive powered by battery will be located in a consist between 2 Tier-4 locomotives, thereby developing a battery-electric hybrid consist. On the mainline, both the diesel and battery-electric locomotives will power the train, which can efficiently reduce the emissions along the route and improve the fuel economy by at least 10%. This locomotive features all energy-management systems such as onboard energy storage to enhance train and consist performances.

The pilot test is likely to be conducted from January till the end of March 2021. Following the anticipated successful test, BNSF will expand the testing of various operating conditions on its system in other locations. The recent initiative is an addition to the company’s existing investments in clean technologies such as Tier-4 locomotives, battery-electric hostlers, electric wide-span cranes, and idle control.

Wabtec’s Vice President of Engineering, Alan Hamilton, has stated that the FLXdrive is the 1st 100% battery-electric heavy-haul locomotive worldwide that can optimize the total energy utilization of the consist.

The latest pilot program is a part of the $22.6 million grant awarded by the California Air Resource Board to BNSF & the San Joaquin Valley APCD (Air Pollution Control District) from the ZANZEFF (Zero- & Near Zero-Emission Freight Facilities) project to pilot various emission-reducing technologies in the railyards. This ZANZEFF project was developed with an initiative to reduce GHG emissions, strengthen the economy, and improve public health.

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