Trains getting in on the electric vehicle revolution

Car and truck manufacturers are quickly moving to produce electric vehicles, but electric trains? Can those heavy-haulers schlep their massive cargo on batteries? Turns out, yes, they can. And an early leader is Wabtec, a Pittsburgh-based manufacturer of locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars. The company’s history goes all the way back to 1869 but it got a big boost last year when it merged with GE Transportation, a GE spinout, last year.

The company is planning to test drive its hybrid electric choo-choo on a 350-mile route in California. It’ll be the first experiment of a battery-powered train pulling thousands of tons.

The barrier to electric trains isn’t so much the weight they’re hauling as the software required to regulate energy transfer. Wabtec thinks it’s got that mastered and is touting the lower carbon emissions and environmental benefits, as well as a commitment to sustainability and safety.