The 1,500 horsepower locomotive, dubbed NS 999, will be used to move cars around the rail yard, Norfolk Southern said. It uses 1,080 rechargeable 12-volt lead acid batteries to store power, and can run for about a day on a charge.
It also recharges using the energy from braking.
The battery-only operation gives the train zero exhaust emissions.
Low-horsepower locomotives like the new electric one are typically used in rail yards. Norfolk Southern will next be turning its attention to hybrid diesel-and-electric locomotives for long-haul trips, said Gerhard Thelen, Norfolk Southern's vice president of operation planning and support. He runs the research and testing department that designed the new battery-powered locomotive.
A hybrid locomotive for long-haul use would run on a mix of electricity and a diesel engine, and it would channel energy from braking back to the batteries, Thelen said. The company is aiming to test such a locomotive by the end of next year.
"We're looking forward to applying this technology in regular service," he said.
The Norfolk, Va.-based company built the battery-powered prototype at its Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona. It said it developed the prototype in partnership with the Energy Department, the Federal Railroad Administration, and Pennsylvania State University.