The Jeuns

Testing Hybrid Locomotives for the First Time

May 3, 2024 | by The Jeuns

Union Pacific is leading the way in sustainable transportation by testing new hybrid battery-electric locomotives. Partnering with rail technology company ZTR, Union Pacific has developed the first of six sets of hybrid locomotives, built from a pair of SD40-2s.

These innovative locomotives have the unique ability to run on both diesel and batteries, similar to today’s plug-in hybrid cars. The remaining five sets are scheduled for testing next year and are being constructed at Union Pacific’s shop in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

President of Union Pacific Railroad, Beth Whited, expressed excitement about the pilot project, emphasizing its potential to enhance fuel efficiency and reduce carbon footprint. The collaboration between Union Pacific and ZTR was crucial in the development of the hybrid propulsion technology.

CEO and President of ZTR, Sam Hassan, commended Union Pacific’s dedication to sustainability goals and emphasized the significance of the partnership in advancing sustainable solutions for emission-free locomotives.

These hybrid locomotives will operate as “mother-slug” units, with one locomotive running on diesel and an accessory or “slug” unit providing battery power. The batteries will feature various charging options, including wayside charging and onboard self-charging capabilities. This innovative design increases the locomotive’s pulling and braking power for yard switching operations.

With the potential to consume up to 80 percent less fuel than traditional diesel units, these hybrid switchers offer significant environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and criteria pollutants. Additionally, they are expected to deliver reduced maintenance expenses and noise levels compared to conventional locomotives. Union Pacific’s commitment to exploring alternative energy sources and sustainability goals is showcased through this groundbreaking hybrid locomotive project.

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