The Virginia-based Norfolk Southern debuted a prototype locomotive which runs on batteries. You read that right – a rail train that runs on re-chargeable batteries.
The NS 999 is an all-electric plug-in locomotive which uses a lead-acid energy storage system featuring over one thousand 12-volt batteries.
“Today, the transportation sector currently accounts for just under a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of nitrogen oxide emissions, and almost three-quarters of our petroleum consumption,” said Transportation Secretary LaHood in a Norfolk Southern statement. “We need to change that. By working together to develop alternative energy sources and innovative technologies like this electric locomotive, we will make transportation more sustainable and energy-efficient.”
Is this the future of locomotive technology? Maybe. However, we must keep in mind that building this prototype was expensive. Nevertheless, it’s a great advancement and sends the right signal to other railroad companies that energy-efficient rail trains are the future of the industry.
I only wish that the big railroads paid as much attention to worker safety on locomotive cabs. For example, the seats for train crews in the engines are often terrible, with no back support, and lead to back and neck injuries to engineers and conductors over time through vibration and lateral movement, shocking and jolting the workers. We see lots of railroad workers hurt this way over their careers and ending up with spine problems and surgery making it impossible to return to the job.
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