Rio Tinto orders Battery-electric locomotives for Mining Rail in Australia

Jan. 12, 2022
The 100% battery-powered locomotive will help the mining firm achieve a 50% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2030

Global metals and mining firm Rio Tinto has ordered four of Wabtec's FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives for its rail network in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The 100% battery-powered locomotive will help the mining firm achieve a 50% reduction in Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2030.

Rio Tinto’s order is for the latest version of the FLXdrive locomotive, which features 7 MWh energy capacity. The new locomotive is expected to help reduce the firm’s fuel costs and emissions in a double-digit percentage per train.

“Our partnership with Wabtec is an investment in innovation and an acknowledgment of the need to increase the pace of our decarbonization efforts,” said Rio Tinto Iron Ore Managing Director of Port, Rail and Core Services Richard Cohen. “By locking this in now, we are making progress in our efforts to reduce our Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.”

Wabtec will deliver the locomotives in 2030. Rio Tinto intends to use the locomotives in multiple applications, including as a shunter in the railyard and in the mainline service. At present, Rio Tinto’s mainline service uses three diesel-electric locomotives. The FLXdrives will develop a hybrid consist.

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The locomotives will recharge during the trip via regenerative braking and at charging stations. Wabtec’s energy-management software will help determine the optimal time to recharge the batteries along the route and ensure fuel efficiency. 

“The FLXdrive is ideally suited to support Rio Tinto’s sustainability targets for their Pilbara system,” said Rogerio Mendonca, President of Freight Equipment for Wabtec. “This locomotive provides the tractive effort, fuel savings, and emissions reductions to cost-effectively run rail networks in the mining industry. The rapid adoption of the FLXdrive by Rio Tinto and other mining operators demonstrates the industry’s commitment to decarbonizing their operations. This solution represents a major step toward achieving zero-emission locomotive fleets in the future.”

Late last year at the Manufacturing and Technology Show in Cleveland, Wabtec Chief Technical Officer Eric Gebhardt highlighted how the Pittsburgh-based manufacturing was leveraging emerging technologies to drive sustainability both in the factory and on the tracks.

Employing artificial intelligence and large-scale battery technologies to help Wabtec eliminate wasteful energy use, Gebhardt noted. The goal is reducing emissions 60 million tons annually, compared to moving the same level of freight via trucking.

About the Author

EnergyTech Staff

Rod Walton is senior editor for He has spent 14 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist.

Walton formerly was energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World. Later, he spent six years covering the electricity power sector for Pennwell and Clarion Events. He joined Endeavor and EnergyTech in November 2021.

He can be reached at [email protected]

EnergyTech is focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.