US firm develops autonomous freight wagon for rail


Intramotev, a technology startup from St. Louis, has developed an autonomous freight car that can be used in a standard rail service. The vehicle, called the TugVolt, is currently aimed at short-haul routes of 600 miles or less, and designed with stock clutches and air brakes.

“Currently, two configurations are available, for flat wagon and hopper wagon operations”, said Intramotev co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Timothy Luchini. “The first applications are for aggregates. We are also currently in talks with potential end users who would be interested in closed box and tank wagon configurations.”

A battery-electric distributed propulsion

The TugVolt uses battery-electric distributed propulsion, with a range of up to 600 miles. Charging time is 15-30 minutes with fast chargers. The target GRL (gross rail load) is currently the industry standard 286K, with a maximum of 315K GRL if the local infrastructure can support it, Luchini noted.

Casey Cathcart, CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based Cathcart Rail, commented in turn. “The first applications are likely to be aggregated routes between, for example, a mine and a processing facility, a short-haul transfer point or applications in plants such as a steel mill”, he told Railway Age. “I imagine future applications will be similar to a mixed compound delivered under the normal Class I exchange service to a short-line classification yard. From there, the TugVolts separate independently and head to their various end points to load/unload before returning and realigning themselves in their composition.”

A first letter of intent from a customer

Timothy Luchini, Corey Vasel and Alex Peiffer co-founded Intramotev in 2020. Luchini and Vasel once worked for Boeing Co. Peiffer studied rail systems and logistics and received an MBA from the University of Southern California.

The company has 13 employees. The aim is to complete a commercial demonstration unit in the second quarter of 2022, after which a number of tests will be carried out. Luchini further said Intramotev has a letter of intent from an as-yet-unknown customer for a $30 million TugVolt fleet.

Author: Jerom Rozendaal

Jerom Rozendaal is our Belgium correspondent

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