Dec 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Caterpillar, BNSF Railway, Chevron pursue hydrogen-powered locomotive

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The lightest element on the periodic table could soon be used to power the heaviest of engines.

What’s happening: Caterpillar, BNSF Railway and Chevron on Tuesday announced a plan to develop a hydrogen-powered locomotive system.

  • United Airlines on Monday secured the right to buy up to 100 hydrogen engines for its aircraft.

Why it matters: Transportation represents the largest share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

Yes, but: Producing hydrogen isn't always environmentally friendly, as fossil fuels are often used to make it.

Details: Caterpillar’s Progress Rail will develop a hydrogen rail system, Chevron will deliver the fueling setup, and BNSF will demonstrate the technology once it's ready.

  • United invested in ZeroAvia's hydrogen-electric jet engine, which the airline said, “could be retrofit to existing United Express aircraft as early as 2028.”
Go deeper