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Mining company buys four battery-powered locomotives from Pittsburgh company

Julia Zenkevich
90.5 WESA

One of the biggest locomotive manufacturers is selling more of its new battery-powered locomotives as railroads and mining companies work to reduce their carbon emissions.

Wabtec said Monday that Rio Tinto has agreed to buy four of its new FLXdrive locomotives for its iron mining operations in Australia in the biggest order to date of the new model. Previously, the Pittsburgh-based company had only announced sales of a single locomotive apiece to a different mining company in Australia and to Canadian National railroad.

BNSF tested out one of Wabtec's battery-powered locomotives last year on its rail lines in California in one of several pilot programs the railroads have announced to experiment with alternative locomotive fuels as a way to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

BNSF and Canadian Pacific railroads both recently announced plans to try out hydrogen-powered locomotives, and Canadian National said it will use the battery-powered locomotive it is buying to haul freight in Pennsylvania. Previously, the major railroads have also tried out locomotives that rely on natural gas.

Locomotives are the main source of carbon emissions at railroads, so they will need to make changes in their fleets to meet their goals to reduce emissions overall. But the railroads have said it will likely be several more years before they are ready to make widespread use of locomotives that use other fuels.

The new Wabtec locomotives will be delivered to Rio Tinto in 2023 allowing the mining company to begin replacing some of the diesel-powered locomotives it uses now. Wabtec didn't disclose the price of the new battery-powered locomotives.

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