Hybrid railcar goes into use in California

With U.S. imports on the rise, ports are under growing scrutiny from air-quality regulators. Part of that concern focuses on the rail system that chugs goods out of ports and away to various Wal-Marts around the country. Yesterday, as part of its attempts to address such concerns, Union Pacific Railroad put into use one of the first locomotives using diesel-electric hybrid technology. The $800,000 “switch engine” — a railcar that hooks freight cars to locomotives — is expected to emit 80 to 90 percent less smog-forming nitrous oxide and use 40 to 70 percent less diesel fuel than its purely diesel counterparts. Union Pacific will analyze the hybrid’s performance and decide whether to order more (at least three other hybrid switch locomotives are being used in demonstration projects around the country). Officials of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which contains the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, hailed the move and urged rail companies to make faster progress in implementing hybrid technology.