Potential for 45% Reduction in NOx and 85% in PMRail is a great way to move freight around - it's also good to transport people, but not as good because for some reason people object to being tightly packed together up to the ceiling like goods - but unfortunately, almost all locomotives run on diesel and produce emissions that the World Health Organization says causes lung cancer. So while trains are more fuel efficient than trucks, there's still work to be done to reduce the amount of air pollution that they produce.
This is what Union Pacific is working on. The railroad company is investing $20 million to test new technology designed to reduce diesel emissions from freight locomotives in California.
A series of 25 experimental locomotives will be based in two Union Pacific rail yards in California as part of a rigorous test of emissions-reducing technologies. The investment represents Union Pacific's latest effort to further reduce emissions and move closer to the U.S. EPA's Tier 4 locomotive emissions standards for new locomotives starting in 2015. The experimental locomotives are intermediate line-haul units, with an operating range of approximately 200 miles, and will be used exclusively in California. [...]
One locomotive in this series of 25 will be based in Roseville to test the combined use of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel oxidation catalyst, and diesel particulate filtering. In testing the combined benefits of these three technologies on one freight locomotive, this Union Pacific unit is the closest an Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD) locomotive has come to achieving Tier 4 standards. The move toward Tier 4 is made up of a 45 percent reduction in the oxides of nitrogen emissions compared to the current Tier 2 standard and an 85 percent reduction in particulate matter emissions based on preliminary analysis. Union Pacific and the California Air Resources Board will jointly analyze the emissions reductions capability of this locomotive over the next 18 months. (source)
9 of the experimental units fitted with the EGR technology are based in the Colton, Calif., area and will be tested through operations in the southern California region. The remaining 15 experimental units will work out of Roseville for operations in northern California. These locomotives have the capability to be retrofitted with EGR and other emissions reduction technologies as testing progresses. The Proposition 1B – Goods Movement Emission Reduction Program is partially funding this set of locomotives.
Testing on all 25 locomotives is scheduled to last through 2014.
Ideally, these emission-control technologies would be combined with other green-locomotive technologies such as hybridization and biodiesel from non-food sources (such as algae, if we can get to the point where we can make fuel from it in a fully carbon-neutral way).