The Anonymous Widower

Wabtec and Mining’s Electric Evolution

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on International Mining.

It is a fascinating article, that describes how Wabtec are applying similar technology to the very large trucks used in mining and quarrying, that have been used in railway locomotives for decades.

AC electric final drives, overhead electrification and autonomous systems are all detailed.

They also talk about power agnostic technology, that can handle electricity no matter how it is provided.

It looks to me, that electric power will decarbonise these important industries.

The Quarrying Paradox

In the UK, we quarry a lot of stone and aggregate in places like the Mendips and the Peak District.

So will the quarrying companies go down the electric route for their on-site operations?

If the electric systems from Wabtec and other companies work reliably and reduce pollution, costs and carbon emissions, I can see no reason, why they shouldn’t.

But then, you have just quarried thousands of tonnes of zero-carbon aggregate and Freightliner et al, then haul it to where it is needed using a Class 66 locomotive, that emits more pollution and carbon emissions, than you have saved.

We need zero-carbon heavy-haul freight locomotives, powered by hydrogen or batteries now!

October 22, 2021 - Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , ,


  1. reinventing the wheel again

    impressive bits of kit though but still can’t see it being practical on main roads even motorways

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | October 22, 2021 | Reply

    • We get enough cases in this country of rail catenary failing and it will be very difficult to get it working reliably on a motorway.

      But a lot of bus manufacturers, including Wrightbus are offering pop-up pantographs to connect with equipment from Furrey + Frey, when buses are stationary.

      Comment by AnonW | October 22, 2021 | Reply

      • The Germans think otherwise, Tom Scott has a video on YouTube showing a catenery cab (with batteries for first/last mile) on a German motorway, joint venture with LIDL.

        And I think more quarries should invest again in fixed material movers (both temporary works railways/monorails and telerferiques). Some of which can be gravity powered if there is a height difference (one remaining working example in the UK, proven tech).

        Comment by MilesT | October 31, 2021

  2. From an earlier posting of yours about Wabtec I think batteries are most likely in the near term, but can they have the range. Surely electrification is a core strategy.
    In the scheme of things, the UK’s diesel engine fleet is hardly the problem it’s the many diesel hauled fleets supporting the mining industry and other freight around the world. Australia, home of the longest freight iron ore trains – 2.4 km long trains with four locomotives, and the longest one, 7.3 kms long and consisting of the eight locomotives, 682 wagons.
    Brazil’s freight trains typically 3.2 km in length carrying iron ore and pulp.
    China’s bulk freight trains of a similar length.
    Mauritanian with its 3km long iron ore trains
    And then there are all those North American diesel powered locos hauling

    Comment by fammorris | October 22, 2021 | Reply

    • I’d love to see a full analysis of the duties done by diesel locomotives in the UK.

      Some would be capable of being hauled by a battery-electric locomotive with a pantograph and a battery to give a last mile capability.

      Others will need a locomotive capable of producing 4 MW for hauling stone trains.

      These will have to be electric or hydrogen to get enough zero-carbon power.

      Comment by AnonW | October 22, 2021 | Reply

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