The Metra 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 procurement puts Metra on the cutting edge 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 a significant role in our fleet and in our future, and the concept could serve as a template for other railroads to follow.”
The contract with Progress Rail calls for a base order of three locomotives with options for three more. The total cost for all six locomotive conversions, which will be performed in Patterson, Georgia, is $34.6 million. Completing the base order is expected to take about 3½ years.
Metra plans to test the battery-powered locomotives, which will have an estimated range of about 150 miles, on the Rock Island Line. Charging stations, which will be designed after the locomotives are designed, will be placed in the main yard and at an outlying point. The duration of a full and partial recharge of the batteries won’t be known until then.
By replacing diesel power with battery power, Metra will significantly reduce its emissions footprint and greatly improve air quality for its riders and the Chicago region. The battery-powered locomotives are expected to be less noisy and have lower operating costs and lower 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 maximum speed of 79 mph. The batteries must also power onboard systems, such as lighting, intercoms and HVAC. The locomotives may be painted in a green version of Metra’s paint scheme (per the conceptual illustrations) to indicate the green technology.
Metra has taken other recent steps to reduce its diesel emissions, including:
- Seeking to purchase six switch locomotives that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Tier IV emissions standards, the highest standards currently in effect, and one zero-emission, all electric-powered switch locomotive.
- Ordering 15 remanufactured locomotives that meet the EPA’s Tier 3 emissions standards, with an option to buy up to 27 more. These locomotives will be replacing Tier 0 emissions locomotives currently in service. The first of those locomotives is expected to be delivered before the end of the year.