Union Pacific buying 20 battery-electric locomotives

By Jack Burke29 January 2022

Will be world’s largest carrier-owned fleet in freight service, company said

Union Pacific Railroad plans to purchase 20 battery-electric locomotives for testing in yard operations.

The combined purchases and upgrades to yard infrastructure are expected to exceed US$100 million, representing the largest investment in battery-electric technology by a U.S. Class I railroad, the company said. The locomotives will be acquired from Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, and Wabtec Corp. Once completed, Union Pacific will own the world’s largest carrier-owned battery-electric locomotive fleet in freight service.

“We’re committed to actions that reduce Union Pacific’s environmental footprint as we work toward our ultimate goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050,” said Lance Fritz, Chairman, President and CEO of Union Pacific. “These investments will contribute to further developing this important technology and providing industry-wide benefits.”

Union Pacific anticipates the first units will arrive on site in late 2023 with complete delivery by late 2024. The locomotives will be used in rail yards in California and Nebraska, where they will be tested for performance in cold and warm weather, helping identify the locomotives’ capabilities and challenges for broader deployment.

Battery-electric locomotives do not use fuel and emit zero emissions. For every 10 battery-electric locomotives used, approximately 4000 tons of carbon will be eliminated annually, the equivalent of removing 800 cars from the highway. By working with the locomotive manufacturers in this test phase, Union Pacific hopes to advance battery-electric technology development and evaluate its potential deployment in long-haul service.

Union Pacific Railroad said it will assemble the world’s Largest carrier-owned battery-electric locomotive fleet.

Union Pacific published its first comprehensive Climate Action Plan in December 2021, outlining its efforts to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within its operations. As part of that commitment, Union Pacific will reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 26% by 2030 and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

As it works toward its goals, Union Pacific is collaborating with community partners. The Port of Los Angeles, which recently received a Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, awarded Union Pacific a subaward that will partially cover the cost of one battery-electric locomotive.

“Our work with the Port of Los Angeles will help us cut emissions in the South Coast Air Basin, which includes four counties in Southern California,” said Beth Whited, executive vice president and chief human resource officer, who oversees Union Pacific’s ESG efforts. “This work also will help our customers realize the benefit of moving goods by rail, reducing emissions by up to 75%.”

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