Hybrid Locomotive in the Works

May 13, 2009

Tinnitus and hearing loss have impacted generations of railroad workers, many of whom have filed FELA suits over the noise pollution that pervades the railroad industry. In 2006 the Federal Railroad Administration amended its noise control regulations, tightening noise pollution control standards and demanding quieter locomotives:

“FRA is requiring railroads to conduct noise monitoring and to implement a hearing conservation program for railroad operating employees whose noise exposure equals or exceeds an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 decibels. FRA is also establishing design, build, and maintenance standards for new locomotives and maintenance requirements for existing locomotives. FRA expects that this rule will reduce the likelihood of noise induced hearing loss for railroad operating employees.” – Federal Register October 2006

Now, GE is planning to invest $100 million in a factory to build high-tech batteries for heavy equipment. The company is seeking federal stimulus money to help build the plant, slated for construction near Albany, NY. The batteries are a core component in the hybrid railroad locomotive that the company is designing; a new breed of locomotive will be the inaugural use for the innovative battery design.

GE sees the hybrid concept that has been successful in automobiles as a solid option for heavy equipment as well. The company believes that this industrial niche will be a $1 billion business over the next decade. "Battery technology is a core part of the energy future globally. We want to be a part of it," says Jeff Immelt, company CEO.

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