This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 30, 2007

GE Unveils Hybrid Locomotive for Freight Trains

General Electric Company (GE) unveiled a prototype hybrid locomotive for freight trains on May 24th in Los Angeles, California. Like its automotive cousins, the 4,400-horsepower Evolution Hybrid prototype features a series of batteries that capture and store the locomotive's braking energy and use it to help accelerate the train from a stop. According to the company, the hybrid system will reduce fuel consumption and emissions by as much as 10 percent compared to most of the freight locomotives in use today. GE isn't disclosing the type of batteries used in the locomotive, describing them only as innovative, lead-free, and rechargeable.

The company estimates that the energy dissipated in braking a 207-ton locomotive over the course of a year is enough to power 160 households for a year. And if every locomotive today were as efficient as GE's hybrid, the North American rail industry could save $425 million in fuel costs each year. See the GE press release and the GE Transportation Web site.

GE's Evolution Hybrid prototype isn't the first hybrid locomotive, but it's the first to be designed for long-distance travel (a "road" locomotive). RailPower Technologies Corporation currently produces a hybrid locomotive for use in moving railroad cars around within a rail yard. This yard switcher, called the "Green Goat," runs entirely on battery power and employs a small diesel engine to maintain the charge in its lead-acid batteries. The company is also developing a "road switcher," a locomotive designed to move railroad cars outside of a rail yard. See the RailPower Web site.

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