Transforming Rail Transport: The Future with alta's BET Project


Reiss Lin

In response to climate change, the Australian rail industry is making significant strides towards decarbonisation, collectively aiming to hit net zero emissions by 2050.

The Battery Electric Tender (BET) project, led by alta in partnership with Aurizon and supported by ARENA funding, is at the forefront of this transformation.

Aurizon Train

The Need for Decarbonisation in the Rail Industry

The urgency to reduce global carbon emissions has cast a spotlight on the rail sector, which emits approximately 100 million metric tons of CO2 each year.

We have seen the proliferation of Electric Vehicles on Australia’s roads, however Australia’s rail industry has several challenges that set it apart from the automotive industry.

  1. The requirement for complex electrical systems: any electrical system must be compatible with high voltage and high electromagnetism.
  2. Vehicle range: Australia has uniquely long railway lines through areas with limited infrastructure. The range of an electric locomotive therefore must
  3. Australia’s locomotives have long asset lives. With many locomotives having decades of asset lives, waiting for the development of full electric locomotive technology may not be enough to achieve 2050 targets.

Alta’s Battery Electric Tender addresses these shortfalls, combining world leading manufacturing with high voltage innovation to power the future cycle of energy.

Technical Background

The BET project signifies a pivotal advancement in rail technology, heralding a new era of carbon reduction in rail transport. Key advantages of the BET include:

Extended Operational Range

Crucially, the BET project extends the operational distance of electrified trains, offering clients a broader scope for their current and future electric fleets.

Mobile Charging Capability

The BET revolutionizes rail transport by acting as a mobile charging station, eliminating the need for extensive overhead electrification infrastructure. This allows for greater flexibility in train operations across various rail networks.

Hybrid Operation

The system is designed to enable trains to operate in hybrid mode, utilizing both traditional diesel and innovative battery-electric power sources. This dual capability facilitates a smooth transition towards greener technologies.

Energy Regeneration

During normal operations, the BET captures regenerative energy, which is produced when the train brakes or descends. This feature not only improves energy efficiency but also extends the range of the electric power system.

This system operates in three modes — Pure diesel, Hybrid, and Pure electric —reducing reliance on traditional rail infrastructure and capturing regenerative energy, thus enhancing operational flexibility and efficiency.

alta’s Managing Director Roy Zou says the collaboration with Aurizon aligns seamlessly with Alta’s mission to power the nation’s transition to a cleaner future.

Roy Zou

Managing Director

“The use of this technology will alleviate the need to replace existing assets with completely electric assets, saving businesses money, and expediting their path to carbon-neutral/net zero.””

Customer Spotlight: Aurizon

Aurizon is at the vanguard in the rail industry's march towards greener practices. With the Battery Electric Tender (BET) integrated into its operations, Aurizon is set to markedly reduce its carbon emissions. Aurizon has secured a $9.4 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to develop, test and trial a battery electric tender (BET) to be used in conjunction with a modified locomotive.

Aurizon Graphic 2 8x

The BET stands out in the graph as a middle-phase solution, equipping Aurizon to extend electric traction to routes up to 850km — encompassing over half of their current operations. This adoption underscores BET's role in enhancing Aurizon's sustainability profile.

Embracing BET underscores Aurizon’s commitment to a sustainable future, directly tackling the rail sector's environmental footprint.

Project Implementation

The implementation of the Battery Electric Tender (BET) project in Townsville is scheduled for completion in late 2025. The careful planning and methodical innovation approach ensure thorough testing and validation, setting the stage for operational deployment in 2026.

This timeline demonstrates Alta's commitment to precision and excellence, prioritizing the BET system's compliance with stringent industry standards and fulfilling operational requirements, to pioneer a new standard in rail transport efficiency, safety, and sustainability.