Hybrid cars, trucks and buses have already hit the road. Now, make way for the Green Goat, the world’s biggest hybrid. It’s a 2,000-horsepower locomotive that radically reduces fuel consumption and emissions of pollutants.

The Green Goat is a diesel-electric hybrid in which the normal massive diesel locomotive engine is replaced by a 290-horsepower inline 6-cylinder diesel truck engine and a 600-volt battery bank. The batteries supply the power needed to drive the electric traction motors on the wheels of this 280,000-pound “goat.”

Goat is railroad lingo for the smaller locomotives used for moving rail cars around over short distances.

RailPower Technologies, developer of the Green Goat, believes the hybrid locomotive is an ideal way to reduce fuel costs and air pollution in switching yards, said Simon Clarke, executive vice president of the Canadian company. RailPower says the Green Goat uses 40 percent to 60 percent less fuel and emits 80 percent to 90 percent fewer pollutants than conventional train engines.

To build the hybrids, the company strips older locomotives of their engine and cab but keeps the same frame, fuel tank, brakes and electric traction motors. Then it slaps in the long-life lead-acid battery bank. RailPower Technologies says the added weight of the batteries actually helps improve the Green Goat’s pulling power, which is rated at 2,000 horsepower — enough to pull 88 rail cars.

The hybrid is mostly an electric locomotive; the diesel engine only operates to keep the batteries at their optimum level of charge.

A day in the life of a typical railroad goat involves pushing heavy loads short distances at low speeds, making frequent stops and sitting in idle mode 70 percent of the time waiting for someone to sort out which rail car goes next. With 10,000 to 15,000 switch locomotives currently active in North America, millions of gallons of fuel are wasted, literally going up in toxic smoke, Clarke said. Burning diesel produces nitrogen oxides, or NOx, a major contributor to air pollution.

This year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations for locomotives mandate a two-thirds reduction (.pdf) in NOx emissions and a 50 percent reduction in particulate emissions from mid-1990s levels. The Green Goat exceeds those standards and recently received the designation of Ultra-Low Emission Locomotive from the California Air Resources Board.

More here.