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  1. #1

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Clean As a Whistle

    Los Angeles Times, 3-16-2005
    By Wendy Thermos and Deborah Schoch, Times Staff Writers

    Union Pacific Railroad put into service one of the nation's first locomotives using environmentally friendly hybrid technology Tuesday, and the company called it an important step toward cutting air pollution generated by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

    "It's a very efficient technology," said Michael E. Iden, the Union Pacific executive overseeing the company's conversion to a lower-emission fleet. The new breed of rail locomotive combines electric and diesel power and runs almost noiselessly.

    "Typically, for about eight hours at a time, you won't even hear the engine running because it's using electricity from the batteries," Iden said.

    Air regulators called the new engine a positive move, but said railroads must do more.

    Union Pacific and its chief competitor in California, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, are under increasing scrutiny from regulators, who want the rail lines to move more swiftly to reduce toxic emissions, especially in the Los Angeles Basin.

    "This general technology, it's great. We support this," said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. "The problem is, they're moving too slow to implement this technology."

    Growing imports have helped make the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the single largest source of air pollution in Southern California.

    The $800,000 locomotive displayed Tuesday at Union Pacific's rail yard in the City of Commerce is a switch engine that moves cars at slow speeds to hook them up to trains pulled by larger, conventional locomotives.

    A hybrid capable of hauling freight cross-country is being developed and might be in use within three years, Union Pacific officials said.

    The engine unveiled Tuesday is the first hybrid switching locomotive to be permanently put into service by a large U.S. railroad, Iden said. At least three other hybrids around the country are being used in demonstration projects.

    Omaha-based Union Pacific will evaluate the hybrid's performance and decide in coming months whether to order more to begin replacing its older, less-efficient locomotives.

    "This is not an idle investment," Iden said, predicting the technology would be a success.

    Preliminary data showed the hybrid emits 80% to 90% less nitrous oxide, a precursor of smog, than conventional equipment. It also uses 40% to 70% less diesel fuel. The hybrid runs on electricity until its onboard battery bank, which occupies most of the locomotive, runs low. A 290-horsepower diesel engine then kicks in to recharge the batteries.

    The technology is slightly different from that used in automobile hybrids. Vehicles such as the Toyota Prius recharge the battery while braking, but the rail hybrid "does not have that recapture capability," Iden said.

    Emissions from diesel-burning locomotives are prompting heightened concerns among residents close to the ports and along rail lines stretching east through Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Diesel fumes, a probable carcinogen, have been linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

    Gail Ruderman Feuer, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, joined Wallerstein's call for the railroads to move more quickly.

    AQMD officials say the total emissions of nitrous oxides from railroad operations in the South Coast air district are equivalent to the total emissions from the 350 largest stationary sources, including all refineries and power plants.

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  3. #2

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    I'm surprised they're not just switching to biodiesel and using industrial catalysts and particle traps to clean up the emissions. That would probably be a lot cheaper than reinventing the whole locomotive engine to a new form of drivetrain.

  4. #3

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    Actually it would not be a whole new drivetrain. Diesel locomotives are already diesel-electric. Mainline locomotives typically have dynamic braking where the traction motors turn into generators; the current is dissipated as heat in large resistors. It would take a drivetrain modification to convert that energy into something useful.

    What would be needed would be to divert that energy to a battery charging system, and use large batteries to store the energy. I haven't seen this engine but my guess is that it is a typical switch engine coupled to a "slug", which is a diesel-less, cab-less engine coupled semipermanently to the main switch engine. The area normally occupied by the diesel engine is just filled with ballast for traction. The traction motors of the slug feed off the mother locomotive.

    I'm guessing that in the hybrid, the slug's ballast is replaced by batteries. A switching engine is an ideal application for hybrid technology with frequent starting/stopping and no need for high speeds. Switch engines do not usually have dynamic braking, so some electrical components would be needed to allow the batteries to feed off the traction motors.

    It gets complicated in a mainline loco. There's plenty of opportunity for regenerative braking on grades. But the question becomes where to put the batteries in a 4000-6000 behemoth with large generators and an even larger 16 cylinder diesel engine of about 700 cubic inches displacement PER cylinder. Typically these locos operate in multiple units, and a trailer for each unit for just the batteries would not be adding to the energy savings.

    Railroads are also notoriously stingy when it comes to maintenance costs: they like locos to be simple to maintain, with easy access to all the main components, so they would not appreciate stuffing batteries into areas that would hinder access to other components. On the switch engine, the slug would accomodate the batteries with easy access that doesn't affect the maintenance access on the main loco.

    These are not insurmountable problems but they do have to be addressed to gain acceptance.

  5. #4

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    Californias attitude towards railroads is ridiculous. Trains are not part of the problem. A locomotive hauling stuff makes alot less pollution than a couple dozen trucks pulling the same cargo. Trains are already very efficient- I have a hard time seeing how regenerative braking technology would be justified in economic terms. Coal power plants are the biggest source of pollution across the US. Going after diesel trains, busses, or trucks is spit in the ocean for controlling pollution.

  6. #5

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    Did you read the part of the article that says:

    "Growing imports have helped make the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the single largest source of air pollution in Southern California."

    That seems very clear to me that they've made the determination that they think they know where the polution is coming from.

  7. #6

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    magnulus obviously isn't a southern california native or visitor.

    having lived here for some 25 years i have heard of various AQMD changes & have seen ~ and breathed ~ the gains over the years i know the AQMD is stepping in the right direction. i'm also sure the direction they are trying to go is still hampered by various BushWackers with claims of hurting businesses.

    i also have come to wonder if trains are more efficient then tucks? each train car themselves must weight more then several full trucks! the full long train structure alone likely weighs more then the 300 trucks they may "replace". how much more efficient must the train engine be to beat out a truck with today's fuel economy? fully loaded with goods as well?

    when i moved here i saw polution - i understand what it looks like. NOW after years of AQMD gains, i am stunned that i see more polution in Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, etc then i ever see in southern california.

    the thing is in most other towns the horizon isn't so far. on a clear day in so cal i can see easily 150 miles. in most other towns you simply can't see that far because there are few visual overlooks. trees & buildings & such hamper that visual evidence.

    aside from what the media's might say real study & thought goes into these AQMD studies.

    years ago california put vapour recovery systems into the gas pumps. weird looking things that catch the escaping gas when filling your tank. seemed silly but we stepped toward visibly cleaner air.

    years ago they banned certain bar-b-q starter fluids. they said that the use of typical fluids in so cal was equal to ONE oil refinery. seemed silly but cleaner air showed gains.

    i live next to the mountains - 5 minutes drive. 25 years ago it was actually uncommon to actually SEE the mountains. maybe 10 days a year it was clear. today maybe 3 days a year i can't SEE the mountains.

    meanwhile in my home town area (near philadelphia) you simply don't have senic views far enough to understand you're looking thru smog.

    i also lived near the ports & one would have to see ship activity to understand the volume of boat traffic & amount of air being poluted by the boats & related equipment. it is truly stunning how gains can occur in so many other parts of the state but not at the ports.

    see ya

  8. #7

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    A typical lumber hauling flatcar has a capacity of 180,000 lbs and an empty weight of just under 80,000 lbs. If a truck carries about 80,000 lbs, then one of these flat cars can haul as much as 2.25 trucks. A train of 100 of these cars would replace 225 lumber trucks.

    Each of those trucks would be powered by a 500 hp diesel, requring about 112,500 hp to move the load.

    On the other hand the train can be pulled by about 4 diesel locomotives of 4000 hp each, or 16,000 hp.

    One thing you forgot to factor in was the lower rolling resistance of steel wheels on steel rails.

    Mike G.

  9. #8

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    thanks mike - good data. i guess trains truly have great potential. i'd like to see trains used more. but i guess there's something else missing.

    southern california just finished a train system meant for the port boats (los angeles & long beach ports) to off load onto trains & enable trains to take cargo 75 miles inland for distribution to trucks. this was planned ("the alameda couridor") to enable goods to move thru the ports faster & reduce the sever traffic problem in & around the ports.

    it's running at less then 40% capacity. handy in a way since if it was AT full capacity we'd say someone didn't plan ahead & build enough track.

    people may not recognize the scale of the ports. i don't know the exact size myself, but it's about an area some 18 miles long (coastal) and has dock & anchors areas about 12 miles wide. easily several hundred docks. at any one time 200 ships are in & around or waiting to enter the ports. after cranes, trains, trucks, and small assist vehicles you can see where it can be considered a strong smog source.

    see ya

  10. #9

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    It's nice to know California has such excess capacity. There was recently a story in the paper here in Arizona saying that rail charges were going way up in Phoenix because we're at 100% of our rail capacity.

  11. #10

    New Hybrid Locomotive's Emissions Are Cl

    Biodiesel fuel in a conventional large-bore locomotive engine actually results in increases in nitrous oxides, which are the main precursor of smog.

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