Metra will create battery locomotives

Metra’s Board of Directors today approved a first-of-its-kind plan to convert up to six of Metra’s oldest diesel locomotives to zero-emission battery power.

“This purchase places Metra at the forefront of battery-powered technology and demonstrates our commitment to innovation and cleaner energy,” said Metra CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski. “If these locomotives prove themselves, they could play an important role in our fleet and in our future, and the concept could serve as a model for other railways to follow.”

The contract with Progress Rail provides for a base order of three locomotives with options for three more. The total cost of the six locomotive conversions, which will be performed in Patterson, Georgia, is $34.6 million. Completion of the basic order is expected to take approximately 3.5 years.

Metra plans to test the battery-powered locomotives, which will have an estimated range of around 150 miles, on the Rock Island line. Charging stations, which will be designed after the design of the locomotives, will be placed in the main courtyard and at a peripheral point. The duration of a full and partial recharge of the batteries will not be known until then.

By replacing diesel power with battery power, Metra will significantly reduce its carbon footprint and significantly improve air quality for its passengers and the Chicago area. Battery-powered locomotives are expected to be less noisy and have lower operating and maintenance costs than diesel locomotives.

The zero-emission locomotives will be fully compatible with Metra’s existing railcars and diesel locomotives, and must be capable of providing a safe and comfortable ride at all speeds up to the top speed of 79 mph. Batteries should also power on-board systems, such as lighting, intercoms, and HVAC. Locomotives can be painted in a green version of Metra’s paint scheme (per concept artwork) to indicate green technology.

Metra has recently taken other steps to reduce its diesel emissions, including:

  • Seeks to purchase six switchers that meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier IV emissions standards, the highest standards currently in effect, and one zero-emission all-electric switcher.
  • Order for 15 rebuilt locomotives that meet EPA Tier 3 emissions standards, with an option to purchase up to 27 additional locomotives. These locomotives will replace the Tier 0 locomotives currently in service. The first of these locomotives should be delivered before the end of the year.

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