Union Pacific To Purchase Ten Battery-Powered Locomotives from Wabtec

(Credit: Wabtec)

by | Feb 2, 2022

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(Credit: Wabtec)

Western U.S. freight-hauling railroad Union Pacific announced last Friday that it will purchase ten FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives from rail car manufacturer Wabtec. The order, which marks the largest investment in battery technology by a North American railroad, will upgrade Union Pacific’s rail yard infrastructure and support its commitment to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The FLXdrive is a 100% battery-powered freight locomotive with a 2.5-megawatt-hour battery consisting of 7,000 cells. Wabtec estimates that the FLXdrive reduces a freight train’s total fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, particulate matter, and nitrogen oxides by at least 10%. The ten FLXdrives will enable Union Pacific to eliminate 4,000 tons of carbon annually from its rail yards — the equivalent of removing 800 cars from the highway. The new locomotives will be manufactured in the U.S., with the first units being delivered to Union Pacific in late 2023.

 Rafael Santana, President and CEO for Wabtec, stated:

“Battery power is an ideal solution to reduce the environmental impact and costs of yard operations. Using the FLXdrive in the rail yard can significantly improve local air quality, as well as reduce noise by up to 70% for neighboring communities.

Lance Fritz, Chairman, President and CEO of Union Pacific added:

“Railroads are already the leader in low emissions ground transportation, and we believe battery-electric locomotives are the next step in our journey to eventually reach net zero. This first phase of testing will further enhance the technology, and, ultimately, benefit the entire industry.”

This purchase is a concrete step toward Union Pacific’s climate commitment, outlined in its Climate Action Plan released in December, to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 26% by 2030 and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Given the substantial cost savings and the opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, many rail lines are greening their operations. Montreal, Canada’s public transit system is swapping out ten of its locomotives for diesel-electric replacements that will reduce particulate matter by 95% and reduce emissions by 89%. DB Cargo AG and DB Bahnbau Group are adding 50 dual powered electric and diesel locomotives to their fleets. And BHP Western Australia Iron Ore recently ordered four battery operated locomotives, two of which are FLXdrives. 

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