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Westport Innovations (NASDAQ: WPRT ) is training itself to make money in new ways. "Training" itself, literally.
On Wednesday, Westport announced it has begun producing liquefied natural gas (LNG) "tenders" for use by Canadian National Railway (NYSE: CNI ) . A tender is a train car whose primary purpose is carrying fuel to supply the train's locomotive engine. Westport plans to deliver its first such tender to CNR in Q4 of this year, with three more tenders to follow subsequently.
Westport describes its new product as having several advantages for customers such as CNR. For one, an LNG tender can carry more than 10,000 gallons of LNG to fuel the locomotive, allowing the train to run longer and drive further without having to stop to refuel. Simply switching out a locomotive's diesel fuel tanks with LNG tanks when converting to the new fuel source, for example, would not permit the train to travel as far.
For another, Westport says that its LNG tender, in particular, will be built agnostically -- capable of supplying LNG fuel to LNG-powered locomotives made by "virtually any manufacturer," a useful feature in large railway companies that may source locomotives from multiple manufacturers.
In this regard, Westport noted in its press release that it is collaborating with Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) to build next-generation LNG-powered locomotives, and expects to demo the first one in 2014.