Intramotev to deploy self-propelled battery-electric railcars to transport coal from Cumberland mine

TugVolt self-propelled battery-electric railcar prototype undergoing testing in Intramotev’s St. Louis headquarters. Image from Intramotev.

Intramotev, a Missouri-based technology company developing autonomous, zero-emission rail solutions, has finalized an agreement with Iron Senergy to provide three ReVolt railcars for its 17-mile private rail line that transports coal produced by its Cumberland Coal Mine to its Alicia Harbor Facility located on the Monongahela River in Western Pennsylvania. 

The announcement comes a month after the company was awarded a $200,000 grant from Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification to support the deployment of its TugVolt self-propelled railcars at a mining site in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in late 2023.

This will be the world’s first deployment of self-propelled battery-electric railcars in a traditional freight train, using regenerative braking and battery technology to reduce diesel consumption from locomotives, resulting in lower costs for rail operators and reducing emissions impact from rail operations, the company said.

Intramotev said it is developing and deploying a suite of products to address the primary element behind the lack of growth in the rail industry, shipment certainty, while further building upon rail’s strengths in safety and sustainability.

They include TugVolt, a proprietary kit that can retrofit/upfit existing railcars to become battery-electric, move independently like a truck, and decouple to service first- and last-mile legs; ReVolt, capturing waste energy in traditional trains via regenerative braking; and automated safety systems including gates and hatches.

Every day, freight trucks navigate choked highways across the nation, producing an estimated 433 million tons of carbon emissions annually, while close to a million freight railcars sit idle in switching yards, awaiting locomotives to bring them to their destination, the company said.

Intramotev said it is poised to help meet the Federal Railroad Administration’s Climate Challenge, a commitment to partner with owners and operators in the U.S. rail network, and manufacturers of rail equipment, to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Captive routes between mines and processing facilities have the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions and save costs through our proprietary battery-electric technology,” Intramotev CEO Timothy Luchini, PhD said in a media statement.

“Using our technology will help Iron Senergy become a cleaner, healthier operation in western Pennsylvania. We hope their success will inspire other rail managers’ decarbonization efforts across mining and steel mill transportation.”