Aussie Battery-Electric Hybrid Train Test Snags $9.4 Million in Funding

Aussie Battery-Electric Hybrid Train Test Snags $9.4 Million in Funding

Australian freight company Aurizon has been awarded $9.4 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to develop battery electric freight trains.

The project has been funded in half by the ARENA with the other half funded by Aurizon. It’s an attempt to cut down on the emissions produced by the freight industry, which produces about 0.8 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse emissions, that’s 4Mt of CO2e.

ARENA calls it a “world-first proof of concept”, Rather than using electric railway lines, which the agency says could result in a much greater implementation cost, the test train involves a diesel-electric hybrid system that’s capable of regenerating its battery from braking and slowing, similar to an electric car on the road.

The concept at this stage, dubbed the ‘Battery Electric Tender’ (BET) involves a wagon housing for a 1.8MWh battery, with it expected that the BET could power up to 50 per cent of the company’s commercial haul routes. Aurizon calls it a ‘big battery pack on wheels’.

At any given time, the freight company has about 700 active trains, with more than 15,000 wagons on rails across Australia.

A diagram of the prototype system. Image: Aurizon

“Aurizon aims to use battery and hydrogen power sources, or a combination of both, to deliver decarbonised freight solutions for customers across our national footprint, no matter how heavy or how far the freight needs to move,” Aurizon managing director and CEO Andrew Harding said.

“By delivering a locomotive fleet that can tap into renewable energy sources, Aurizon and the rail industry can do the heavy lifting in decarbonising transport supply chains in Australia. We are also working to increase the proportion of freight transported by rail rather than road, which would contribute to reducing overall transport sector emissions.”

It’s expected that this project will be on the rails in early 2026. At a later stage in development, the company expects to incorporate hydrogen into the process.

Image: Aurizon

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