The world’s first battery-electric freight train was introduced earlier this month at an event in Pittsburgh, Pa., as part of a renewed effort by certain U.S. lawmakers to reduce carbon emissions from rail transport in order to address the climate issue.
Wabtec, a rail freight firm based in Pittsburgh, demonstrated its locomotive at Carnegie Mellon University as part of a new collaboration between the two institutions to create zero-emissions technology to help transport the 1.7 billion tonnes of products shipped on American railroads each year.
The cherry red, 75-foot-long train, perched on a strip of rail at Carnegie Mellon’s technology campus on the banks of the Monongahela River, presented a stunning backdrop to politicians, rail executives, and academics urging a faster industrial shift away from fossil fuels.
Dignitaries were permitted to climb a vertiginous ladder onto the train to see its inside, which had a small driver’s cabin in front of 500 lithium-ion battery modules organized in stacks in the vehicle’s heart.
The new train, known as the FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive, had successful trials in California earlier this year, where it was shown to have lowered fuel usage by 11%, resulting in a 6,200-gallon reduction in diesel consumption.
Wabtec claims that the next edition of the locomotive, due out in two years will be able to reduce diesel use by about a third, the fossil fuel normally used in freight train.