About the Project:

Cando Rail & Terminals is excited to announce that we are developing a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery-powered switching locomotive, an initiative that has the potential to transform the rail switching industry. Cando’s innovative solution to retrofit a legacy, non-tier compliant locomotive with a Li-Ion battery propulsion system will provide a scalable solution that is customized for closed loop switching operations. Li-Ion battery-powered locomotives, which will be zero emission and will be able to perform all manners of work as required by a normal diesel-powered locomotive used in switching operations, will result in fuel savings and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for our customers.

The Government of Alberta is committing $2 million through Emissions Reduction Alberta’s Industrial Transformation Challenge to Cando’s Li-Ion 2025 Project.

Once the retrofit is complete, Cando will demonstrate and evaluate the technical performance of the battery-powered locomotive and supporting charging infrastructure in a real-world switching environment in the Fort Saskatchewan area.


Introducing the Zero Emission Fleet of the Future!


Why did we choose a battery powered locomotive?

Cando’s industrial switching operations differ from long-haul railway operations as they are In Yard Operations (IYO) or closed loop locations. First of all, permanently installed charging locations are a practical solution for energy transfers in this environment as the locomotive is always near the charging equipment. Second, a custom, scalable solution is very important due to the nature of switching operations. With this project, Cando is designing the ability to increase or decrease the onboard energy storage to ensure sufficient power is available to meet a variety of customer needs. Traditionally, switching operations have had to utilize larger or overpowered equipment to perform functions well in excess of what is required, leading to unnecessary or excessive emissions. While switching, locomotives spend a large percentage of time idling and emitting unnecessarily when not actively moving railcars. The lithium-ion battery powered locomotive Cando is developing will be completely scalable and custom made specifically for our IYO and is expected to reduce energy consumption by 40% versus traditional locomotives. Additionally, traditional switching locomotives can be retrofitted to use this technology, which further encourages a circular economy of repurposing existing materials and equipment.

Why did we choose a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery?

Traditionally, switching operations utilize larger or overpowered equipment to perform functions well in excess of what is required. The Li-Ion propulsion system allows us to be scalable and customizable so we will only need to equip the locomotive with the exact energy storage needed to service our customers. The evolution of the Li-Ion battery energy storage provides a great value not previously offered to yard locomotives and switchers, by offering drastic energy and maintenance reductions while emitting zero GHG and criteria pollution. Enhancements in Li-Ion technology have also led to energy storage that previously was not available including fast charging capabilities. Cando has selected using nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) batteries (a type of Lithium battery) due to their unique characteristics. Although this style of battery has a lower energy density compared to other Li-Ion batteries, they provide many advantages over more energy intense battery chemistries. These advantages include thermal runaway protection, packaging that prevents self-ignition, and firefighting measures that can be accomplished using standard Class ABC extinguishers. The selected batteries also mitigate the need for specialized training, equipment, or additional measures to protect operators, first responders, or the public in the event of a failure or fire. The adaptation of Li-Ion technology will enable Cando to offer a cleaner, environmentally sustainable locomotive that meets immediate environmental targets while providing real time performance data to help develop and refine future technologies.

Where will the battery come from? Are all materials being sourced within Alberta and/or Canada?

The technology is still under development and is not available in Canada at the current time. We are working with US-based Innovative Rail Technologies (IRT), who is already developing and retrofitting Li-Ion propulsion systems in the US and is currently demonstrating one of the first commercially available Li-Ion switching locomotives in the US. Cando will continue to work with Canadian suppliers and innovators with the goal that our pilot project will position Alberta, and Canada, to become a leader in the technology.

Will the battery be able to perform in the cold climates of Alberta/Canada?

Yes. Compensations for temperature and operating characteristics will be considered during design, testing, and will be actively monitored following deployment into the field. An unknown with Li-Ion propulsion in this application has been the transition into colder climates such as Edmonton, where Cando’s first deployment into the field will take place. However, Cando has already started working with IRT on designing thermal management systems that will keep the batteries within optimal temperature ranges. Consistent monitoring and evaluation of the locomotive control systems and onboard Li-Ion batteries will produce the performance necessary to execute Cando’s service delivery for its customers. Cando is focused on environmental stewardship which includes reducing GHG emissions but, as a third-party contractor, we must also balance this with the needs of our customers. We believe that the implementation of Li-Ion technology will enable us to satisfy both objectives.

What are the environmental benefits?

There are a number of environmental benefits to our battery-powered locomotive such as elimination of diesel fuel and exhaust emissions, reduction in lube oils and waste, and an estimated 40% reduction of energy needs. Noise pollution will also be reduced along with the elimination of the locomotive exhaust system that can potentially be a source of ignition for trackside fires. Traditional diesel-powered locomotives produce approximately 521 tonnes of CO2e/year on average compared to a Li-Ion battery locomotive which will produce 0 tonnes CO2e/year at point of consumption. As the Li-Ion locomotive will be deployed in Alberta, it is estimated that 51 CO2e/year of emissions will be produced to supply the locomotive with the electrical energy it requires. As cleaner electrical energy sources continue to be developed and deployed, and depending in which province or state the locomotives are deployed, the environmental impact of the locomotive will continue to decrease over time. The retrofit has a current emissions reduction of 470 tonnes CO2e per switching locomotive. The project is expected to achieve project level emission reductions of 3,300 tonnes CO2e by 2030 and 11,900 tonnes CO2e by 2050 (one locomotive). The market level emission reductions are estimated at 16,600 tonnes CO2e and 255,300 tonnes CO2e within Alberta, by 2030 and 2050, respectively. The market level forecast includes electrification of Cando’s existing locomotives in Alberta at an average of two conversions per year.****Estimating the market potential only within the company’s operations provides the highest level of confidence in the market reduction, but results in a significantly conservative assessment.

How big is the market for battery powered switching locomotives?

The technology has a large potential to significantly reduce emissions in switching operations across North America. The market and value proposition for a Lithium-Ion battery powered locomotive is exceptionally strong. We estimate that there are approximately 10,000 switcher locomotives in North America, 2,000 switcher locomotives in Canada, and 350 switcher locomotives in Alberta.

What is the timeline for the project?

  • October 2023 – Finalize Li-Ion system + charger requirements and source material
  • March 2024-September 2024 – Retrofit locomotive/commissioning
  • October 2024-December 2025 – Field testing

What does this mean for Cando’s operations/customers?

There is sizeable upside to the technology, not only in the Alberta rail market, but across the country and continent. Li-Ion battery-powered locomotives will be zero emission and will be able to perform all manners of work as required by a normal diesel-powered locomotive used in switching operations. This will significantly lower not only Cando’s emissions, but will also significantly impact our customers’ Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions reduction goals. Once we prove the technology in the field, the project will have converted one locomotive at one site. The target market for initial commercialization of the solution are Cando’s operations and existing customers which utilize switcher locomotives. We will work with our existing customers to determine if battery powered locomotives are desired. Depending on the level of success and customer buy-in, Cando will then create a pathway for commercialization beyond Cando and Alberta.