Progress Rail in Muncie to build battery-powered locomotives

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Omaha-based Union Pacific Railroad Co. has announced plans to invest $100 million to buy 20 battery-electric locomotives and supporting infrastructure, and 10 of the locomotives will be built in Muncie.

Union Pacific has contracted with Progress Rail Services Corp., which has a manufacturing plant in Delaware County.

The other 10 engines will be built by Pittsburgh-based Wabtec Corp. Union Pacific says its purchase represents the largest investment in battery-electric technology by the largest freight-hauling rail companies.

“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.”

Progress Rail is subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc. The company says the EMD Joule is a zero emissions switcher with nominal power up to 3,000 horsepower. Progress says the locomotive’s battery recovers energy through dynamic braking.

“We are pleased to supply our EMD Joule locomotives to Union Pacific representing our largest battery-electric locomotive order to-date,” said Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Jim Umpleby. “At Caterpillar, we’re continuing to invest in new products, technologies and services to support our customers during the energy transition, helping them achieve their climate-related goals as they build a better, more sustainable world.”

The companies say the locomotives, which do not use fuel and emit zero exhaust emissions, will be tested in rail yards in California and Nebraska.

They will be tested for performance in cold and warm weather as the companies examine the challenges and capabilities of the technology.

The first units are expected to arrive in late 2023 with complete delivery by late 2024.

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