Two electric locomotives from Innovative Rail Technologies will work the US Steel switching yards at Mon Valley Works’ Edgar Thomson and Clairton plants near Pittsburgh and will save an estimated 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year.
Helping pay for the e-locomotives was $4.5 million from Volkswagen’s settlement with the US government over its diesel emissions “cheating” software case of eight years ago.
The ATLAS locomotives have a range of up to 100 miles, can recharge up to 800 killowatts overnight, and can be used for regional freight, port, freight yard, and captive industry operations, and as regional commuter locomotives.
About $4.5 million from Volkswagen’s settlement with the US government over its diesel emissions “cheating” software case from eight years ago is helping pay for United States Steel’s purchase of two lithium-ion electric locomotives from startup Innovative Rail Technologies (IRT).
The steel giant is kicking in another $2.3 million for IRT’s propulsion system retrofit for two switching station locomotives used to haul steel, coke, scrap metal, iron ore, and other materials at its Mon Valley Works in the Pittsburgh suburb of West Mifflin.
“Mon Valley Works is the first industrial site to deploy this technology to reduce small particulate matter emissions from its locomotive fleet,” Scott Buckiso, senior vice president and chief manufacturing officer for US Steel, said in a press release.
The IRT locomotives will be two of 10 at Mon Valley Works’ Edgar Thomson and Clairton plants and will save 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year, the steelmaker said. The eight other locomotives will remain diesel-powered, for now.
“We’re looking at” more conversions “over time,” US Steel spokesman Andrew Fulton told Autoweek.
The $4.5 million in Dieselgate money came from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s grant program’s portion of the 2017 VW settlement, Allegheny Front reported October 31. Pennsylvania’s DEP received $30.4 million from the $157 million VW diesel settlement.
Electric-powered locomotives have been around for many years, but until now they were limited by their need for electrified overhead lines.
IRT also has contracts for its electric propulsion retrofits, called Advance Technology Lithium-Ion Adaptive System (ATLAS) with Cando Rails & Terminals in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Nucor Corp.’s steel mill in Hertford County, North Carolina. The first of Nucor’s ATLAS e-locomotives is to be delivered in the first quarter of 2024.
IRT has a “sizable” order bank for ATLAS, said Ira Dorfman, one of the company’s three principals. Factories in Joliet, Illinois, and Lafayette, Louisiana, build ATLAS.
“We’ll make several more deliveries by the end of the year,” Dorfman said.
ATLAS has a range of up to 100 miles and can recharge up to 800 killowatts overnight, so the propulsion system qualifies for Class III short lines, to be used for regional freight, port, freight yard, and captive industry operations, and as regional commuter locomotives.
They are recharged either by plug-in, like an EV, or by automated pantographs commonly used for electric-powered buses.
The IRT ATLAS motor’s instant torque would be familiar to anyone who has driven a performance electric vehicle, he says, and tractive effort is 30% better than diesel, Dorfman said, which means it has superior pulling power without wheel slippage.
Each IRT power unit is essentially custom made. The Mon Valley Works’ Clairton facility is mostly flat while Edgar Thomson is hillier and is the only IRT ATLAS of the two with regenerative braking.
“The 2D cycle is considerably different for each application,” Dorfman said. “The cost factor is the battery technology, and one size just doesn’t fit all.”
IRT delivered the Clairton ATLAS locomotive last month, Fulton said. The Edgar Thomson e-locomotive will be delivered in early January.
“According to the project engineer, the feedback on the performance of the locomotive at our Clairton facility has been positive,” Fulton said, via e-mail. “The locomotive has proven to perform all required tasks with minimal loss of charge.”
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