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Union Pacific to Build Hybrid Locomotives in North Little Rock

2 min read

Union Pacific Railroad Co. of Omaha has announced plans to build hybrid locomotives at its facility in North Little Rock in partnership with green tech company ZTR Control Systems of London, Ontario.

The rail company said the locomotives work like plug-in hybrid cars; they can operate in multiple modes with several ways to charge the batteries including wayside charging, regenerative braking and onboard charging.

The first prototype is set to be delivered in late 2023, Union Pacific said in a news release. Five additional units are expected to arrive in 2024.

The rail company plans to convert older locomotives, which typically have higher emissions, in “mother-slug” sets. In that setup, two locomotives are replaced with one diesel locomotive connected to an accessory, or slug.

Union Pacific will retrofit the slug locomotives with rechargeable energy storage systems using batteries, energy management systems and control systems provided by ZTR. That will allow the slug to operate in single engine, battery charging or electric only mode, resulting in reduced fuel consumption and lower maintenance costs.

The hybrids will be used mainly for yard operations. Union Pacific began rolling them out in 2017 and currently operates more than 65 in yards across the nation.

Union Pacific said that depending on the mode of operation, fuel savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions could total up to 80%.

“This pilot will help make our fleet more fuel efficient and further advance our commitment to reaching our sustainability goals, while testing the technology’s capability for expanded use across our locomotive fleet,” Shane Keller, the rail company’s senior vice president of engineering and mechanical, said in the release.

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