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OK, must admit that I have no experience with battery railroad locomotives, having only read about that Wabtec "experimental" freight unit, but I have a few questions concerning such a battery powered unit in commuter service:

1) How will the 480 volt, three phase AC HEP for train heating/air conditioning/lighting be supplied?

2) What with all the fast acceleration and quick stopping using blended dynamic-air braking, how long will the batteries hold their charge?

3) How often would the batteries need to be recharged, and how long would it take?

The LIRR just scrapped a pilot program testing battery powered M-7 cars. They cited lack of reliability, and difficulty in retro-fitting existing cars.

https://www.trains.com/trn/new...-electric-equipment/

Putting the batteries under diesel bodies would allow for more room to work. Still to be seen if the technology will be marketable.

Last edited by RSJB18

$34.6 million to convert only 6 locomotives over 3 & 1/2 years isn’t exactly cheap, either.

Still a WHOLE LOT cheaper than the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars required to install 12,500 or 25,000 volt AC overhead catenary, including all the modifications to the signal systems and necessary filtering circuitry required to prevent electrical noise interference to the surrounding communities.  

Battery-powered locomotives? I’ll believe it when I see it. Why not just electrify the commuter lines, like the Acela?

The LIRR/ MTA estimates electrification to cost $18 M/ per mile, for 3rd rail, not overhead cant. That number doesn't include utility costs for building substations and transmission lines, power plant capacity, etc.

This is interesting.

However, the energy density of lithium ion batteries is 0.26-0.27 kwh/kg. That is fine for cars, obviously. , A heavy haul locomotive requires much more energy than a car. Diesel fuel has an energy density of 11.6 kwh/kg; that is 43 times the energy density of lithium ion batteries.

Let us say that a Metra locomotive has a 2000 gallon fuel tank. At 3.2245 kg per gallon, that would be just about 6,500 kg of diesel fuel. The energy equivalent in lithium ion batteries would be about 280,000 kg worth of lithium ion batteries. Given that a mass of 1 kg exerts a force of 2.2 pounds here on earth, that would be 610,000 pounds of lithium ion batteries. Compare that to an ES44AC which weighs around 420,000 pounds. How does this work?

Energy Density of some Fuels in kwh/kg

Lead Acid 0.05

NiCd 0.08

NiMH 0.12

Li Ion 0.27

Coal 8.0

Diesel 11.6

Gasoline 12.7

Nat Gas 13.6

Hydrogen 33.6

It seems that if one wants a clean fuel without CO2 emissions one would want to use green hydrogen (hydrogen from renewable energy source) or pink hydrogen (hydrogen made using nuclear power) to power a locomotive or other heavy haul vehicle as hydrogen has the energy density. Obviously there are logistics that need to be worked out. Hydrogen-air fuel cells are around 30% efficient currently and getting better every day.

Blue hydrogen and gray hydrogen would not be clean as they use natural gas as the hydrogen source and CO2 is made in the process. Gray hydrogen does not sequester the CO2 whereas blue hydrogen does.

Last edited by WBC
@GG1 4877 posted:

The same conversations were happening when those upstart diesel electrics started appearing on railroads. 

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that it was quite apparent from the get go that diesel electric locomotives were more efficient and required less maintenance than steam locomotives.  Back then new infrastructure needed to be built to adapt the new energy source and the same is true today as new infrastructure will need to be built to the new energy source.  Ingenuity to resolve what are still evolving technologies will be accomplished by someone in the world if not the US.

This is a proof of concept, it is why they are saying testing it. Heating and AC can cause significant power draw, would love to know what kind of batteries they are using with this. There is the HP required to accelerate, the HP to maintain steady speed which is less (which can easily be translated into kw of pw), plus the power draw of heat and ac and I guess dybamic braking , which is not insignificant as HW said.

And yes, there is the charging time involved as well, if this is a commuter train, a typical run is likely let's say 60 miles each way, or 120 round trip, so they would need to recharge likely after the return run. With a high power charging system (talking like 600kw), with batteries today you can get relatively fast charges , in cars they can get 80% charge in 20 min or so. If you can get a similar thing with train batteries (that would dwarf what is in a typical EV), then that might be practical. They said in the article they would have chargers at the end of runs, which makes it more practical. if a run is 60 miles, engine has a range of 150, even with heavy AC or heating use (lighting being LED will significantly cut that load) they could recharge at end of run in 20 mins and would likely work.

The one thing they could do is use regenerative braking to increase range, it helps slow the train down and it helps charge the batteries. Given the nature of commuter runs, with a lot of stops, it could help extend the range as well.

Will this work with current battery technology? Not sure, it is why they are testing it. Thing is, tests like this are valuable because you see what works and what doesn't, as they say failed experiments are ften worth more than successes. Eventually it will work, there are batteries on the horizon that could allow this to work, that are different materials, recharge more easily.



Generally things like this don't work well, converting an existing unit, it usually works ,if it does at all, if it is done from scratch.

Yes it is the regenerative braking that recharges the batteries that make battery power more attractive than electrification of commuter rail lines. They won't have the efficiency that these mining locos have though. They sure look like converted SD units to me too.

These Electric Trains Never Need Recharging Thanks to Regenerative Braking

They create so much electricity traveling downhill fully loaded, they can go back to the top of the hill empty with power to spare.

Good old gravity. It’s always there for us, keeping us grounded — and now, charging our electric trains indefinitely. A mining company in Australia recently explained that four of its electric trains create so much electricity through regenerative braking going downhill, they can power themselves back to the top of the hill, and have a little extra battery power left over. Science!

So, of course, there’s a tiny catch: It’s the added weight of the cargo going downhill that helps to create so much energy through braking. When the vehicle goes back uphill, it’s significantly lighter, because it’s empty. There’s no such thing as free energy, and the laws of physics are unbending. Still, the net result is an electric vehicle that basically powers itself throughout its duty cycle. Neat!

https://jalopnik.com/these-ele...anks-to-r-1848975204

Last edited by iguanaman3
@franktrain posted:

Wow? Is it April 1st again already? I must have slept through the end of the year.

I have to point out to the mediots at the Tribune that unless the electricity is generated 100% by nuclear, hydro, wind or solar, they are not "zero emissions" locomotives. The emissions have just been moved to someone else's back yard. FYI, wind and solar usually have backup systems that burn carbon based FUELS because, strangely enough, the Sun isn't always shining and the wind doesn't always blow when the gub'mint types demand that they do.

Sounds like they're trying to appease some numbskull politicos, who are demanding a technology that is not ready for prime time. 

Also, 6 testbed locomotives does not amount to "Metra Converting To Battery Power".

Port of Long Beach has been testing battery powered locos for about two years. I don't know how that is going. UP announced a few months ago that it would be buying 20 battery operated switchers for yard operations. That might make more sense than running on a 60 mile commuter line. It does seem to me that hydrogen would be a more efficient emission-free fuel, but what do I know.

In terms of eliminating emissions, I do believe that Illinois generates roughly two-thirds of its power from carbon-free sources, mainly nuclear but some wind and solar, too. A lot more solar coming on line in near-term, also, including a close to 600 megawatt farm getting built in Sangamon Co.

Wow? Is it April 1st again already? I must have slept through the end of the year.

I have to point out to the mediots at the Tribune that unless the electricity is generated 100% by nuclear, hydro, wind or solar, they are not "zero emissions" locomotives. The emissions have just been moved to someone else's back yard. FYI, wind and solar usually have backup systems that burn carbon based FUELS because, strangely enough, the Sun isn't always shining and the wind doesn't always blow when the gub'mint types demand that they do.

Sounds like they're trying to appease some numbskull politicos, who are demanding a technology that is not ready for prime time.

Also, 6 testbed locomotives does not amount to "Metra Converting To Battery Power".

The odd thing about EV's is that because electric power is so much more efficient than internal combustion engines they actually produce less carbon emissions even if the power comes from coal which we are phasing out anyway. I am not sure about locomotives but I assume the same would be true for them. Remember they said that the car would never replace the horse too.

Yes, Electric Cars Are Cleaner, Even When The Power Comes From Coal

https://www.forbes.com/sites/m...oal/?sh=7e7d30ce2320

Last edited by iguanaman3

Wow? Is it April 1st again already? I must have slept through the end of the year.

I have to point out to the mediots at the Tribune that unless the electricity is generated 100% by nuclear, hydro, wind or solar, they are not "zero emissions" locomotives. The emissions have just been moved to someone else's back yard.

AMEN!

When I see claims of “zero-emissions” when it relates to battery-powered ANYTHING, I immediately know I’m dealing with someone who is either ill-informed or, more likely, an outright liar. There is no such thing as a “zero emission” vehicle. Electric vehicles just move the emissions from the tailpipe on the vehicle to the smokestack at the power plant.

@iguanaman3 posted:

The odd thing about EV's is that because electric power is so much more efficient than internal combustion engines they actually produce less carbon emissions even if the power comes from coal which we are phasing out anyway. I am not sure about locomotives but I assume the same would be true for them. Remember they said that the car would never replace the horse too.

Yes, Electric Cars Are Cleaner, Even When The Power Comes From Coal

https://www.forbes.com/sites/m...oal/?sh=7e7d30ce2320

Not true

@iguanaman3 posted:

The odd thing about EV's is that because electric power is so much more efficient than internal combustion engines they actually produce less carbon emissions even if the power comes from coal which we are phasing out anyway. I am not sure about locomotives but I assume the same would be true for them. Remember they said that the car would never replace the horse too.

Yes, Electric Cars Are Cleaner, Even When The Power Comes From Coal

https://www.forbes.com/sites/m...oal/?sh=7e7d30ce2320

I took electronic technology. There is a loss involved in every conversion of power from one form to another. There is an efficiency loss in the power plant boilers, another in the turbine/generator combination which creates the electricity, transmission losses from the generating site to the point of use, more loss in the charging process and finally loss in the conversion from electricity to mechanical energy in the vehicle.

This sounds like an awful lot of "free lunch" talk. I will bet you a dollar to a donut that quite a few of these losses were purposely ignored so that the study's findings would support some green political agenda.

Hydrogen fuel cells would be a more logical choice. The technology is still evolving but they would be true zero emission with lower weight/ KWH ratios.

How many of us have twisted our backs lifting a battery into a car????

Or they could just go nuclear like the Navy.....

@WBC- interesting info you provided. Never thought of weight to KWH ratios before.

A recent test of Ford's F-150 EV truck was less than spectacular.

https://driving.ca/auto-news/n...n-160-km-when-towing

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for these new technologies, just don't try and ram them down our throats.

For reference, I run the Facilities Dept. at a mid-size University. In my 25 years we've added a 2.0 MW co-gen plant, over 1500 tons of water-source geothermal heating and cooling, 50 KW solar PV. We currently have an RFP out for an additional 750KW Solar too.

And 18 EV chargers, with more coming.

Bob

I took electronic technology. There is a loss involved in every conversion of power from one form to another. There is an efficiency loss in the power plant boilers, another in the turbine/generator combination which creates the electricity, transmission losses from the generating site to the point of use, more loss in the charging process and finally loss in the conversion from electricity to mechanical energy in the vehicle.

This sounds like an awful lot of "free lunch" talk. I will bet you a dollar to a donut that quite a few of these losses were purposely ignored so that the study's findings would support some green political agenda.

Yes, you have to go through the entire energy chain.

I am going to ignore the pumping of oil or extracting coal from the ground and transporting it and refining as this washes out for either electric vehicles where the source is from a fossil fuel plant and internal combustion motors.

While there are some advanced designs such as the Toyota internal combustion motor at 38% efficiency, most gasoline combustion engines average around 20 percent thermal efficiency.

Thus, for most cars 100 horsepower of fuel consumed results in 20 horsepower to move the car.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

For an electric vehicle one has to start at the power plant. The average coal-fired power plant in the United States operates near 33% efficiency. Simple Google search.

That means for 100 horsepower of coal consumed at the coal fired plant results in 33 horsepower worth of electricity.

Now, that electricity has to be transmitted over power lines. That is not for free. Super conductors at room temperature do not exist yet. The power lines have resistance and roughly 20% of electrical energy is lost in transmission. That 33 horsepower becomes 26.4 horsepower at your electrical plug.

Now the electric vehicle has to be plugged in and the battery charged. That is not for free. The battery gets warm when being charged. That warmth is waisted energy. The charging of the battery is about 85% efficient.  That 26.4 horsepower at the plug translates into 22.4 horsepower in the battery.

The electric vehicle itself is very efficient. Did you know that an EV can be more than 70% efficient from the moment you turn it on. Well, 22.4 x 0. 7 = 15.7 horsepower to propel the car.

So the calculations give for 100 horsepower of fuel consumed results in:

20 horsepower of motion for a car with internal combustion motor

16 horsepower of motion for an electric car.

Another take is EVs convert over 77% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels. That would result in overall (0.77 x 26.4 = 20.3) 20.3 horsepower of motion for an EV. A wash at best.



This is not to put down EV's. There is one big advantage. Pollution from a point source such as a power plant is much more controllable than from millions of individual sources. So pollution from EV's is much more controllable from gasoline powered cars.



Also what needs to be factored in the 20 or so % of electrical generation that comes from hydo, wind, and other clean sources.

Last edited by WBC

For better or for worse, modern society is supported by petrochemicals, and not only for transportation.  I read a Scientific American article sometime back that estimated that the world is only capable of supplying enough food for about two thirds of the current population--petroleum-based fertilizers are used to increase crop yields to make up the difference.   Additionally, even if the industrialized world is able to make a meaningful move away from petroleum, the developing world would still use it since everything is ultimately driven by economics.  As soon as oil prices go down, "green" power magically becomes a secondary consideration for most.

The long-term solution appears to be fusion-based nuclear power (safer than fission) and high energy density batteries.  As we deplete worldwide petroleum reserves, both of these will become much more economically viable.

@WBC posted:

This is not to put down EV's. There is one big advantage. Pollution from a point source such as a power plant is much more controllable than from millions of individual sources. So pollution from EV's is much more controllable from gasoline powered cars.

Also what needs to be factored in the 20 or so % of electrical generation that comes from hydo, wind, and other clean sources.

I have an advanced degree in physics.  There has been some excellent analysis done by WBC and others above about energy production and losses.  The key, however, and the principal goal of EV's is to reduce the release of green house gases into the atmosphere.  See the bolded sentence from WBC's post above.  I have run power plants.  This is true.  Emissions are easier to control at a central source than they are from many distributed sources.  

What will it take?  Obviously, the grid needs to be improved.  This is very expensive.  The efficiency of all energy uses will need to be improved.  Again, very expensive.  Clean energy sources will need to brought on line.  Again, expensive.  

Will batteries be viable for trains?  Who knows?  We are at the beginning of a test and evaluation period.  Will we find a new energy storage medium or process instead of batteries?  No one knows.

Maybe the final solution for railroads will be to string overhead wire just as the Milwaukee railroad did on their transcontinental line.  (Remember, the goal is to reduce/stop emissions.  The government funded the UP and CP with subsidies in the 1860s with the original transcontinental line and may have to do it again.)  CA is stringing overhead wire from SF to San Jose right now.  It appears as if the CA high speed rail will be built no matter what the cost.  

England is building the HS2 train line from London to the midlands right now.  This is another project that is way over budget and very controversial.  So what?  The goal is to provide high speed service and reduce emissions.

The ultimate goal is to provide clean, abundant power with the fewest possible emissions of gasses.  When I was studying nuclear fusion some 40 years ago, nuclear scientists thought thought that they would solve the problem in about 30 years.  Nuclear fusion could be the world's ultimate technology.  There is no pollution, no radioactive waste, and the fuel, basically water, is everywhere.  A viable nuclear fusion breakthrough would change everything.  As far as I know, the fusion solution is still 30 years in the future.  

America has solved its problems before and I am confident that we will find a way in the future.  NH Joe

It's exciting to see something go to testing. I feel like I always see headlines about some discovery/advancement and then it takes eons to move into practical realms. I would have thought it would be better to fit each car with a battery and motors but lots of goofy things were tried 100 years ago when cars were growing into themselves. I'm excited to see some experimentation!

@iguanaman3 posted:

Yes it is the regenerative braking that recharges the batteries that make battery power more attractive than electrification of commuter rail lines. They won't have the efficiency that these mining locos have though. They sure look like converted SD units to me too.

These Electric Trains Never Need Recharging Thanks to Regenerative Braking

They create so much electricity traveling downhill fully loaded, they can go back to the top of the hill empty with power to spare.

Good old gravity. It’s always there for us, keeping us grounded — and now, charging our electric trains indefinitely. A mining company in Australia recently explained that four of its electric trains create so much electricity through regenerative braking going downhill, they can power themselves back to the top of the hill, and have a little extra battery power left over. Science!

So, of course, there’s a tiny catch: It’s the added weight of the cargo going downhill that helps to create so much energy through braking. When the vehicle goes back uphill, it’s significantly lighter, because it’s empty. There’s no such thing as free energy, and the laws of physics are unbending. Still, the net result is an electric vehicle that basically powers itself throughout its duty cycle. Neat!

https://jalopnik.com/these-ele...anks-to-r-1848975204

We tossed this concept around in another thread back in March:

       https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/...uses-the-word-simple

One tidbit that almost makes sense:  If you use energy recovered via dynamic braking against the loaded train as it moves downhill to charge batteries, you should then be able to use the charge in the batteries to take the empty train back up the hill with no additional power needed because the train is now so much lighter.

But set the 'April Fools' headline aside.  This is not perpetual motion.  Loading the train at the top of the hill is where the inefficiency, which you would expect to find somewhere, comes into play -- when you look at the entire system.

Will it work?  Unknown

Should somebody try it?  Why not?

Mike

Last edited by Mellow Hudson Mike

Interesting about regenerative breaking on the downhill run. I remember seeing this UK show about a quarry railroad in Wales (slate I believe), the trains went downhill totally by coasting, the operator basically had a brake lever.

The article is a bit misleading, given this is just a proof of concept. We are in a transition period and technology may or may not be there. In the early days of the automobile, for example, there were concerns about gasoline, when cars started going from being a rare play toy to coming out in numbers, there was concern that they could pump enough oil and refine enough gasoline (among other things, early distillation tech for refining gasoline was pretty inefficient). Obviously they discovered oil in Texas and Oklahoma, and it worked out, but sometimes you don't know.

There are questions about charging ability, there is no doubt, we have a very unbalanced electrical grid, it isn't national, and there are real concerns about being able to handle all that demand (that, along with switching to heat pumps vs using gas fired furnace/boilers, lot of things). I suspect it will be addressed, the auto industry has made a big committment to electric vehicles and knowing the way things work they will be putting pressure on the power industry to upgrade the grid (my guess? the infrastructure bills they have already put in place does have work on the grid, I suspect there will be more). On the other hand keep in mind that most people during the week will be charging their cars at home, most trips are less than 30 miles and people will recharge at home. Home chargers are 40 amp/4kw, and they often charge at night when electrical demand is way less.

Something to think about, I saw this pretty good you tube channel on electric cars, and he cited some studies on electric vehicle use and carbon/mile output. Gas and Diesel cars, on a per mile basis, put out significantly more carbon emissions then if you look at the equivalent with EVs. Even in a state like West Virginia, that gets most of its power from Coal, the net carbon/mile is significantly less than burning gasoline or oil (and yes, electric tech also has greenhouse issues with producing the lithium they use, if you look at the lifecycle there is carbon emissions from mining it, shipping it etc). However, so do gasoline and oil, oil drilling releases methane and natural gas that is burned off, there is carbon impact refining gasoline, and then it needs to be transported (with diesel powered trucks and trains).

Right now I doubt batteries would work with long distance trains, impractical without rapid charging capability. Commuter lines because they are relatively short lengths, and have access to strong power grids, might make sense if they can work out the details. I am not sure converting existing engines will work out well and quite honestly, I think this is more about PR, showing they are doing something. I do know there is newer technology coming, batteries that have higher densities than lithium and don't have the drawbacks (like needing anything from China), that can recharge relatively rapidly. It could be that some sort of fuel cells work better (not a fan of H2 based cells).

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