The Anonymous Widower

Union Pacific Railroad Makes Largest Investment In Wabtec’s FLXdrive Battery-Electric Locomotive

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from Union Pacific.

This is the first three paragraphs.

Union Pacific Railroad (NYSE: UNP) today announced the purchase of 10 FLXdrive battery-electric locomotives from Wabtec Corporation (NYSE: WAB). 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.

“As an industry leader, Union Pacific is pioneering a major application of battery power in its rail yards,” said Rafael Santana, President and CEO for Wabtec. “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.”

The approximately 2.5-MWh locomotives are each powered solely by 7,000 battery cells, providing Union Pacific a zero-emission solution for its yard operations. The 10 FLXdrives will enable the railroad 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 United States with the first units being delivered to Union Pacific in late 2023.

It would appear that the major use will be in their rail yards.

There is also this second press release from Union Pacific, which is entitled Union Pacific Railroad To Assemble World’s Largest Carrier-Owned Battery-Electric Locomotive Fleet.

This is the first paragraph.

Union Pacific Railroad (NYSE: UNP) today announced plans to purchase 20 battery-electric locomotives for testing in yard operations. The combined purchases and upgrades to yard infrastructure are expected to exceed $100 million, representing the largest investment in battery-electric technology by a U.S. Class I railroad. The locomotives will be acquired from Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, and Wabtec Corporation (NYSE:WAB), two companies at the forefront of locomotive innovation, and will be the world’s largest carrier-owned battery-electric locomotive fleet in freight service.

The press release also says that Union Pacific will be netzero by 2050.


All of this action in the United States and Australia with battery-electric locomotives, from two manufacturers; Progress Rail and Wabtec, leads me to the conclusion, that proposals to create battery-electric locomotives from Class 66 or Class 68 locomotives in the UK, will soon be being discussed by the owners of the locomotives and Wabtec and Stadler.

January 29, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. Progress rail is also part owner of Vivarail, who is the company converting the underground D stock for rail use in the UK and, they hope, the USA.

    Comment by Milest | January 29, 2022 | Reply

    • Are you sure about that? Railroad Development Corporation is a shareholder and I don’t think they have any connection to Progress Rail, who are part of Caterpillar.

      Comment by AnonW | January 29, 2022 | Reply

      • You’re right, RDC is run by Henry Possner III who is a director of Vivarail, and is responsible for the Iowa Interstate Railroad, RDC in Germany, RegioRail in Belgium and is an ‘adjunct lecturer’ at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. It’s under the guise of the latter that his Pop Up Metro scheme is seeing Vivarail battery railcars going to the States.

        Comment by fammorris | January 29, 2022

  2. Why the focus on Wabtec, come to that Progress Rail, and their large battery locos. None of these run as individual power sources, they have so far always run as part of a setup with diesel locomotives, which effectively makes them diesel electric hybrids. Far better to look at progress with shunters and short haul, or trip locos as the Americans call them.
    I also just found out that in any case Wabtec are leaning on their India facility Wabtec India Technology and Engineering Centre (WITEC) in Bangalore for much of the engineering for FLXdrive.
    Back in the 1990s I had a lot of connection to SAN Engineering a small loco builder in Bangalore a town that has assumed the sort of role of the Silicon Valley of India.
    Projects like this are just as interesting:
    Stadler GEAF’s battery electric loco

    The Chittarajan Locomotive Works planned conversion for battery operation

    or come to that Clayton Equipment’s CMD90/Class 18 diesel electric hybrid.
    then there are the Toshiba HDB locos ordered by Deutsche Bahn
    and how about this Chinese battery, fuel cell hybrid that can run for 24 hours – good video here

    Comment by fammorris | January 29, 2022 | Reply

    • The interesting thing about the Wabtec/Progress Rail developments is the speed with which they are advancing. When was the United States, last at the forefront of railway development? I wouldn’t be surprised to see hydrogen enter the picture during this year. Caterpillar, Cummins, JCB and mtu all seem to have developed internal combustion engines that can run on hydrogen and Rolls-Royce have a 2.5 MW gas turbine generator.

      A successful battery-electric locomotive is the first step on the long road to the decarbonisation of heavy haul rail.

      Comment by AnonW | January 29, 2022 | Reply

  3. In what way are Wabtec and Progress Rail advancing the development, they’ve simply packed in a lot of batteries in a locomotive frame which cannot on its own provide any meaningful heavy haul operation – they need the diesels to which they are coupled to do that. Battery evolution is the most significant aspect when it comes the speed with which things are advancing yet even with the best will in the world they never achieve the sorts of energy density that we become accustomed to with dirty old fossil fuels.
    You ask when was the United States, last at the forefront of railway development, well I hardly call being at the leading edge of rail development when they are so reliant on European and Japanese companies for their passenger transportation.
    Freight and heavy haul for the mining industry is critically important to the world’s economy and where you have trains headed by multiple locos the Wabco/Progress Rail solution is both beneficial from an emmisions and an economic point of view but it’s hardly groundbreaking.
    If anything the train communication network, the way in which the combination of the two data transmission systems work within trains is likely to be as important to multiple working freight trains as passenger stock. It consists of what’s known as the Multifunction Vehicle Bus (MVB) which allows communication inside each loco/vehicle and the Wire Train Bus (WTB), alternatively Ethernet Train Bus (ETB).
    Balanced against this stands the well proven Distributed Power control philosophy currently used in the US, Australia, China and mining railways around the world. It relies on radio communication between command loco and slave locos. To date operators have little experience of controlling vehicles such as a battery loco which will probably have different traction and braking characteristics to those of a diesel. Train buses may better influence interworking of battery and diesel locomotives connecting, as they do, the different vehicles to maintain the distribution of power. They’re likely to do so without the interruption and marginal delay that can occur in radio controlled systems.
    If you keep saying that you wouldn’t be surprised to see hydrogen enter the picture during this year, one of these years you’ll be right. We know that engine manufacturers will develop internal combustion engines that can run on hydrogen or some appreciable percentage of hydrogen, it doesn’t happen because publicists keep churning out stories to the media, so I think we’ll have to disagree about the when.
    I’d love it if you would identify this Rolls-Royce gas turbine generator to which you keep referring, I can’t identify the particular turbine that Rolls-Royce would put up for installation into a British freight loco.
    Have a look at the Chinese hydrogen/battery hybrid of my earlier reply, I’m sure that’ll give some inspiration.
    I can almost agree with you that successful battery-electric locomotives will be the first step on the long road to the decarbonisation of heavy haul rail, I just happen to believe that at this stage of battery development that for non US style freight/heavy haul traffic it’ll have to be as a bi-mode of some kind.

    Reply Comments

    Comment by fammorris | January 29, 2022 | Reply

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