Railroad company Union Pacific announced today plans to purchase 20 battery-electric locomotives from Caterpillar’s Progress Rail and Wabtec. The zero exhaust emissions locomotives will be tested in yard operations, forming part of a $100 million investment in yard infrastructure, marking the largest investment in battery-electric technology by a U.S. Class I railroad.

The order follows the announcement by Union Pacific in December of a new commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, through planned actions including improvements in operational efficiency, investments in a more efficient locomotive fleet and energy management technology, and increased use of low carbon fuels.

Lance Fritz, Chairman, President, and CEO of Union Pacific, said:

“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. These investments will contribute to further developing this important technology and providing industry-wide benefits.”

Union Pacific stated that by working with the locomotive manufacturers in this test phase, the company aims to advance battery-electric technology development and evaluate its potential deployment in long-haul service. The locomotives will be tested in rail yards in California and Nebraska, for performance in cold and warm weather, helping identify their capabilities and challenges for broader deployment.

Jim Umpleby, Caterpillar Chairman and CEO, said:

“We are pleased to supply our EMD Joule locomotives to Union Pacific representing our largest battery-electric locomotive order to-date. 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.”

Rafael Santana, President and CEO for Wabtec, said:

“As an industry leader, Union Pacific is pioneering a major application of battery power in its rail yards. Battery power is an ideal solution to reduce the environmental impact and costs of yard operations. Using the FLXdrive in the rail yard can significantly improve local air quality, as well as reduce noise by up to 70% for neighboring communities.”  

Deliveries of the new locomotives will begin next year and continue through 2024.