CN Eyes Alternatives to Diesel-Electric Locomotive Power

Pressure from investors is prompting Canadian National and Canadian Pacific to seek alternatives to diesel-electric locomotives.

The investors are lobbying the two Class 1 railroads to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,  which is leading them to explore such technologies as electrification and hydrogen fuel cells to power locomotives.

Chantale Després, CN’s director of sustainability, said at a recent investor’s conference that it is not yet clear which technology the railroad will adopt.

In the short term he indicated the carrier will explore launching one or more pilot programs to test the different technologies.

Previously, CN explored the use of liquified natural gas as a motive power source.

Any move away from the use of diesel-electric locomotives is likely to be several years away.

In the interim, CN and CP are seeking to reduce emissions through such means as Trip Optimizer technology and better matching horsepower to tonnage.

CN also said it is increasing its use of renewable blends in its diesel fuel and has purchased Tier 4 ES44AC locomotives from Wabtec.

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