us Chicago Metra F40 battery locomotive image

USA: Chicago commuter operator Metra has awarded Progress Rail a contract to convert up to six of its oldest diesel locomotives to zero-emission battery power for testing on the Rock Island Line.

The base order covers the conversion of three EMD F40PH-3 locomotives over 3½ years, while options for three more could take the total value of the contract to $34·6m. Progress Rail is to undertake the work in Patterson, Georgia.

Metra said switching to battery power would significantly reduce its emissions footprint and improve air quality in the area. The locomotives would be quieter than diesel engines, and are also expected to have lower operating and maintenance costs.

The battery locos are expected to have a range of about 240 km; charging facilities are to be provided in the main servicing yard and at an outlying location. They are required to be fully compatible with Metra’s existing coaches, and capable of powering push-pull trains from two to 11 coaches at speeds up to 130 km/h. A green version of Metra’s livery is planned.

‘This procurement puts Metra on the cutting edge of battery-powered technology and demonstrates our commitment to innovation and cleaner energy’, said the operator’s CEO & Executive Director Jim Derwinski on August 17. ‘If these locomotives prove themselves, they could play a significant role in our fleet and in our future, and the concept could serve as a template for other railroads to follow.’

In other steps to reduce emissions, Metra is seeking to purchase an electric shunting locomotive and six diesel shunters meeting EPA Tier 4 emissions standards.

Latest this year it is to begin taking delivery of 15 EMD SD70MAC freight locos which are being remanufactured by Progress Rail to meet EPA’s Tier 3 emissions standards. These are intended to replace existing Tier 0 locomotives, and Metra has an option to buy up to 27 more.