Pacific Harbor Line (PHL) on May 4 showcased its new EMD® Joule battery-electric locomotive from Progress Rail at a graduation ceremony for its latest class of engineers.
The zero-emission, zero-idle EMD® Joule began one year of testing with PHL, an Anacostia Rail Holdings subsidiary that provides rail transportation, maintenance and dispatching services for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, switching approximately 40,000 freight cars annually. The railroad also serves nine on-dock intermodal terminals, handling in excess of 2 million containers per year, as well as carload customers; and links with BNSF and Union Pacific.
PHL in 2020 announced it had teamed with Progress Rail, a Caterpillar company, on a test of the locomotive, which has now arrived for service at the ports. It will join PHL’s current fleet of EPA Tier 3 plus and Tier 4 locomotives using 100% renewable diesel fuel.
The EMD Joule, one of Progress Rail’s alternative propulsion initiatives, is available in five configurations, new or repowered (“R” nomenclature)—SD70J (6 axles, 8.0 MWh maximum battery capacity); SD70J-BB (8 axles, 14.5 MWh); SD40JR (6 axles, 4.0 MWh); GT38JB (4 axles, 4.0 MWh); and GT38JC (6 axles, 4.0 MWh). According to Railway Age’s recent report on Nex-Gen Motive Power, these units all feature regenerative braking for battery recharging. Customers can specify what they desire in MWh, up to the maximum rating. The modular EMD® Joule Charging Station provides stationary charging in 700- and 1,400-kW configurations. BNSF is slated to take delivery next year of up to four SD70Js with charging stations for continuous operation in Southern California.
“Pacific Harbor Line is dedicated to serve the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles with efficiency, safety and a commitment to do our part to protect the environment,” PHL President Otis L. Cliatt II said during the graduation ceremony and locomotive unveiling. “We are proud to continue our long tradition of excellence by presenting a new group of highly trained and dedicated engineers to serve our community and the maritime industry.”
“To have the best rail service and ports in the world, we need to invest in both modern infrastructure and the workers who keep operations moving—that’s what we’re doing through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] remains committed to growing and supporting America’s rail workforce,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose, who also took part in the ceremony.
“Recruiting, training and retaining quality employees is essential to our service to the nation’s supply chain,” Anacostia Rail Holdings CEO Peter Gilbertson noted at the event. “The nine engineers who graduated today [May 4] are joining a skilled workforce that operates safely in a challenging environment.”
“We thank our partner PHL for its ongoing leadership in both workforce development and environmental stewardship,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero added.
According to CARB, under the In-Use Locomotive Regulation—the first-of-its-kind in the nation—operators will now be required to pay into a spending account, and the amount will be determined by the emissions they create while operating in California. Companies, CARB said, will be able to use the funds to upgrade to cleaner locomotive technologies; locomotives will also have a 30-minute idling limit. Additionally, switch, industrial and passenger locomotives built in 2030 or after will be required to operate in zero-emissions configurations while in California, and in 2035 for freight line haul.
The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) on May 1 released an official statement in response to the regulation, stating that it is “disappointed with CARB’s decision to risk short line viability in California.” On June 16, the Association of American Railroads and ASLRRA filed a lawsuit, on behalf of their members, against CARB’s In-Use Locomotive Rule, which they said “would limit the useful life of today’s locomotive fleet (more than 25,000 locomotives) and mandate their premature replacement with zero-emissions locomotives.”
“While the spirit behind this rule is consistent with short lines’ environmental commitment, the
rule itself is impractical, unworkable and simply not feasible for most short lines,” ASLRRA President Chuck Baker said. “In addition, this rulemaking does not acknowledge the impact of the elimination of some short line rail service to Californians.”
According to the ASLRRA statement, short line funding, which is sought through programs like the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety Improvements (CRISI), the Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), and California’s Carl Moyer Program, “are not enough to upgrade locomotives commonly used in freight rail transportation in the time allotted in the rulemaking.”
A multi-year battle has just begun, involving California, the railroads, the EPA, and stakeholders in the rail and other sectors, according to a recent TD Cowen-hosted expert panel on the rulemaking. According to panelists, “[t]his could entail deadline extensions, rule modifications, and more states jumping in. California still needs a waiver from the EPA for having a standard different from the national one. The net benefit in the next several years could be enjoyed by locomotive, engine, and component manufacturers, primarily WAB, and to a lesser extent CAT, and possibly CMI (more on the passenger side).”