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Battery powered locomotives

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Battery powered locomotives
Posted by Sawtooth500 on Saturday, February 05, 2011 8:56 PM

Question: instead of traditional electrification has anybody thought of battery powered locomotives?

For example, in a locomotive you have the cab and then behind the cab you have the engine compartment with the prime mover and other equipment. So now just take a railcar frame and put an cab on the front of it, and right behind the cab for the length of the car just put a well, similar to how you'd have in an intermodal car. 

Now drop in that well a giant battery, similar to how you'd drop an intermodal container in the well. Also, this battery container could be very high, so that the total height of the locomotive is equal to a double stack height.

The energy density of batteries is less than the energy density of diesel fuel, so maybe this double stack height battery will be enough to be comparable to the amount of diesel fuel currently carried in a belly tank. If not, then for 6 driving axles instead of having two 3 axle trucks have three 2 axle trucks, so then the engine would still have the same number of prime movers but be two railcars in length. You'd have more weight on the movers then too for better adhesion. 

Obviously at this point you'd want to use DC traction motors, since you'd have DC coming out of the batteries, but you'd get advantages such as:

1. Much better fuel economy, especially in mountain territory as dynamic brakes could recharge the batteries instead of having that energy being dissipated in heat

2. Refueling could still be quick - yes the batteries would take a long time to charge, however you don't need to charge them on the track - the key what I saw above was make batter "containers" - at the servicing area have a crane similar to an intermodal crane that can pull the dead battery out of the locomotive and put it into a charging rack, and take a fully charged battery from the rack and put it into the locomotive. So refueling would be a pretty quick process. 

3. You would get rid of all the vibration of a diesel engine, which is one of the common complaints of rail unfriendly communities. 

This is just an idea, so I was wondering if anybody has ever tried something similar and what your thoughts on it are. 

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Posted by ns3010 on Saturday, February 05, 2011 9:36 PM

The closest thing to what you are proposing is NS 999.

http://www.nsdash9.com/rosters/999.html

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Posted by creepycrank on Saturday, February 05, 2011 9:55 PM

ns3010

The closest thing to what you are proposing is NS 999.

http://www.nsdash9.com/rosters/999.html

The trouble with "999" is that they are using  over a 1000 truck batteries and I heard they were having a lot of problems with them.. They probably need such a large number to get the voltage up by connecting the in series. Submarine size batteries are available, and must be able to get enough voltage to drive the propulsion motor. Then you have the problem of charging them. 

The NYC had about eighty years ago a "tri - power" locomotive to run in NYC. It could run off the diesel engine or from a third rail, and when necessary on battery power alone.

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Posted by Sawtooth500 on Saturday, February 05, 2011 10:24 PM

If this concept ever became a production locomotive then a battery would have to be custom designer for the purpose. 

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Posted by erikem on Saturday, February 05, 2011 10:50 PM

Best available energy density from batteries is 450W-hr/kg from Lithium Sulfur. With current diesel engines, the equivalent density (i.e. after conversion to electric power) is about 4500 to 5000 W-hr/kg. A diesel locomotive can be re-fueled in a few minutes, the battery would probably take hours to re-charge. A big economic challenge is the number of charge/discharge cycles that the batteries can handle.

AC motors would be the best choice, they have an advantage in efficiency over DC motors and the inverters run off a constant voltage DC power source anyway.

What might make sense is an electric locomotive with a on-board battery pack good for an hour or so of running time. This would allow for operation over un-electrified track and under de-energized catenary. Another advantage is that wire underneath low bridges could be permanently de-energized, thus saving the need of providing clearance - the costs of lowering track or raising bridges is a very significant if not the major cost of electrifying in an urban area.

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, February 06, 2011 5:19 AM

The NYC had about 20 or 25 tri-power locomotives for freight service in Manhattan.   The West Side Freight Line electrification ended at 60th St Yard, and tracks south of there were not electrified.  Some siding operations, like a milk processing plant, could not tolerate diesel (oil) exhaust.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Sunday, February 06, 2011 6:55 AM

The battery-straight electric design is not exactly cutting-edge technology.  North Shore Line had two of them (455 and 456) that worked industries along the Skokie Valley Route.  I wouldn't be surprised if other interurbans had similar locomotives.

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Posted by creepycrank on Sunday, February 06, 2011 9:47 AM

I think the "999" is a low budget proof-of-concept project but they could have used more suitable batteries. The batteries developed for submarines are shock resistant to survive depth charging.

The problem with most common batteries is limited charge/discharge cycles. The molten salt battery that GE is developing should be pretty good there and then theirs the flow battery where it can be charged/recharged to infinity.

When this subject is discussed I'm reminded of those @#%*& battery powered forklift trucks where the extra ones were always at the charging station. So for around the clock operations you would probably need 2 units to switch off.

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Posted by carnej1 on Sunday, February 06, 2011 1:06 PM

creepycrank

I think the "999" is a low budget proof-of-concept project but they could have used more suitable batteries. The batteries developed for submarines are shock resistant to survive depth charging.

The problem with most common batteries is limited charge/discharge cycles. The molten salt battery that GE is developing should be pretty good there and then theirs the flow battery where it can be charged/recharged to infinity.

When this subject is discussed I'm reminded of those @#%*& battery powered forklift trucks where the extra ones were always at the charging station. So for around the clock operations you would probably need 2 units to switch off.

Good points.

 I wonder what the battery storage system used on the Railpower Green Goats was derived from? I know they didn't use truck batteries. Obv. the batteries didn't work as well in RR service due to the spate of fires that caused every Green Goat to be recalled (AFAIK, they were all scrapped or rebuilt as Gensets).

The General Electric hybrid locomotive battery technology seems to be taking them longer  to develop than they originally planned. I believe that they initially announced that production versions of the hybrid Evolution series locomotive would be delivered in 2010 and that never happened..

 Union Pacific holds a patent on a system using flow batteries (or fuel cells) in containers as a supplementary power system for hybrid locomotives powering container trains. The idea being to swap "spent" battery containers out for charged units like changing D cells in a flashlight, pretty much exactly what the person who started the thread was suggesting:

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=68vUAAAAEBAJ&dq=union+pacific+railroad

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Posted by erikem on Sunday, February 06, 2011 2:30 PM

carnej1

 I wonder what the battery storage system used on the Railpower Green Goats was derived from? I know they didn't use truck batteries. Obv. the batteries didn't work as well in RR service due to the spate of fires that caused every Green Goat to be recalled (AFAIK, they were all scrapped or rebuilt as Gensets).

I wonder about that as well, an guessing that the batteries were of the flat plate design. I've seen an ad in an off-road magazine for spiral wound lead-acid that are supposed to be much more rugged than ordinary flat plate batteries, these would presumably been a much better choice for the green goat.

The General Electric hybrid locomotive battery technology seems to be taking them longer  to develop than they originally planned. I believe that they initially announced that production versions of the hybrid Evolution series locomotive would be delivered in 2010 and that never happened..

I saw a recent announcement that GE's battery production is supposed to start Nov 2011.

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Posted by erikem on Tuesday, February 08, 2011 9:45 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

The battery-straight electric design is not exactly cutting-edge technology.  North Shore Line had two of them (455 and 456) that worked industries along the Skokie Valley Route.  I wouldn't be surprised if other interurbans had similar locomotives.

I seem to recall one of the Insull lines having a tri-power locomotive (in addition to the NYC tri-powers mentioned by Dave Klepper and the DL&W tri-power) but my recollection could be faulty. One of the Arizona copper mines covered in Myrick's Railroads of Arizona, Vol 3 used battery electric locomotives for a while, but apparently were more troublesome than the North Shore's locomotives.

While the concept of a battery-straight electric isn't new, the technology of motors, motor controllers, batteries and battery charge controllers have advanced tremendously since the North Shore line's locomotives were built.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, February 09, 2011 6:50 AM


Erik might be thinking of some of South Shore's steeple cabs, which were advertised as "triple-threat" locomotives since they could draw power by pantograph, trolley pole or third rail, allowing them (in theory) to operate on any of the Chicago-based Insull lines. 

Illinois Terminal did have a tri-power for service in the St. Louis area.

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Posted by electro47 on Thursday, February 10, 2011 8:16 AM

If you could work out all the battery and control problems wouldn't a unit like the 999 make the perfect helper engine?  Strap in on at the bottom of the hill for the extra HP and use it for dynamic braking on the way down the other side to recharge the batteries or cut it off and let it drift back down also recharging the batteries albeit at a lower rate.  No diesel idling for hours waiting for the next assignment.  Power on demand.

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Posted by K4sPRR on Thursday, February 10, 2011 9:24 AM

Does anyone have any information as to how the NS999 is performing in the cold temperatures?

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Posted by creepycrank on Thursday, February 10, 2011 9:40 AM

electro47

If you could work out all the battery and control problems wouldn't a unit like the 999 make the perfect helper engine?  Strap in on at the bottom of the hill for the extra HP and use it for dynamic braking on the way down the other side to recharge the batteries or cut it off and let it drift back down also recharging the batteries albeit at a lower rate.  No diesel idling for hours waiting for the next assignment.  Power on demand.

 

1. Its not a perpetual motion machine. There are efficiencies involved and I think with dynamic braking you only can recover about a third. The rest goes to running the traction motor cooling fans and the the excitation system for the traction motors to generate electricity. Then there's the problem of battery capacity. If the battery runs out before you reach the top of the hill then it is dead weight that has to be dragged to the top of the hill. 

2. The concept of the GE 2010 was that if you combined the energy in the battery with the output of the diesel that diesel would cut back so that the total output would be the same as the diesel alone. The the battery would recharge downhill (maybe) before they ran out of downgrade. At that point at lower total power output the battery could be recharged off the diesel.

3. The concept of the green goat is that since the load factor on switching service is so low - average 300 hp hr over 24 hours that a 300 hp diesel generator would run at its most efficient at that rated load and the battery would make up the difference during actual switching maneuvers. It was to be able to pay for itself in fuel savings..

 

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Posted by oltmannd on Thursday, February 10, 2011 10:31 AM

creepycrank

 

 electro47:

 

If you could work out all the battery and control problems wouldn't a unit like the 999 make the perfect helper engine?  Strap in on at the bottom of the hill for the extra HP and use it for dynamic braking on the way down the other side to recharge the batteries or cut it off and let it drift back down also recharging the batteries albeit at a lower rate.  No diesel idling for hours waiting for the next assignment.  Power on demand.

 

 

 

1. Its not a perpetual motion machine. There are efficiencies involved and I think with dynamic braking you only can recover about a third. The rest goes to running the traction motor cooling fans and the the excitation system for the traction motors to generate electricity. Then there's the problem of battery capacity. If the battery runs out before you reach the top of the hill then it is dead weight that has to be dragged to the top of the hill. 

2. The concept of the GE 2010 was that if you combined the energy in the battery with the output of the diesel that diesel would cut back so that the total output would be the same as the diesel alone. The the battery would recharge downhill (maybe) before they ran out of downgrade. At that point at lower total power output the battery could be recharged off the diesel.

3. The concept of the green goat is that since the load factor on switching service is so low - average 300 hp hr over 24 hours that a 300 hp diesel generator would run at its most efficient at that rated load and the battery would make up the difference during actual switching maneuvers. It was to be able to pay for itself in fuel savings..

 

I think NS is shooting for having enough battery oomph to make a couple trips in helper service before needing to be recharged.

I think GE's hybrid makes sense because it'll allow trains to maintain speed more easily in undulating terrain.  Charge'em up while in light throttle or braking on the downhill part, drain'em going up the hill.

I'd REALLY like to see a hybrid commuter locomotive - particularly a GE.  No more waiting for the the engine to load up when getting away from the platform.  I'd imaging there'd be quite an energy savings, too, considering all the stops a commuter train makes.

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Posted by petitnj on Thursday, February 10, 2011 10:13 PM

As a rule of thumb 1 KW-hr = 1.3 horsepower-hr and the typical power density of a battery is about 0.1 KW-hr/Kg. If a locomotive has 30 tons (15,000 Kg) of batter you can store 1,500 Hp-hr's in a fully charged battery. That means 1 hour of operating for a small switcher. You really cannot get that much power stored in batteries and need a way to continuously keep the battery charged. It is amazing that a tank of diesel fuel is very power dense and a tank full (1000 gal or 4000 kg) will last the locomotive for about 50 hours at full power.

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Posted by tdmidget on Thursday, February 10, 2011 10:38 PM

"I think NS is shooting for having enough battery oomph to make a couple trips in helper service before needing to be recharged."

Why would you think that when it is used in yard service?

If it can only make a "couple trips" what's the point?

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Posted by oltmannd on Friday, February 11, 2011 6:49 AM

tdmidget

"I think NS is shooting for having enough battery oomph to make a couple trips in helper service before needing to be recharged."

Why would you think that when it is used in yard service?

If it can only make a "couple trips" what's the point?

Not the 999.  The next step in development would be a helper locomotive.  There are some issue to solve, first.  What NS has said publicly about the 999 is there are issues getting the batteries to all charge and discharge evenly, so 999 isn't likely to hit the road any time soon.

For a helper locomotive working Altoona to Conemaugh, a couple trips is a full shift.

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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, February 11, 2011 12:03 PM

It is amazing that with all the technical talent and funding trying to execute a propulsion system as old as the discovery of electricity, they could miss the mark on #999.  With this electric drive craze, it is almost as if developers are driven solely by the obsession to abandon oil no matter what it takes, and therefore are blinded to the well known limitations of battery power. 

 

Battery powered drive is the symbolism of green propulsion over the substance of the laws of physics.  The centerpiece of this impossible dream will be the new Chevy Volt.  

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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, February 11, 2011 12:53 PM

to Bucyrus,


pls, do not be so harsh about battery power. You are right about that:

  - It is not meant, to substitute oil at all

  - It is not meant, to solve all environmental problems

  - It does not reduce costs, at least not right now

It certainly does not mean to overcome physics...

As you mentioned the Chevy Volt, indeed, the cars industries "hottest inventions" seem all to rely on battery power. But it is more, than just that.

Not to be a qualified person for this topic, yet, I have a quite update insights to cars-industries and their view of future:

A big problem, for example, is the drive train. Some sporty, high HP-cars, are struggling against it with forces of nearly 1000Nm force (sorry for the metric: this equals to 2000lbs force?) Where mechanical torque comes to limit, electrical force is nearly unlimited. It also promises, optimal usage of energy, and 50% efficiency is still 50% lost of energy.

   -The car industries is learning that, right now.

   -They know, Lithium will end sooner than oil.

But they the had to take a chance, and where batteries are no option, maybe a solar produced hydrogen  Tank would have been the "Green Guys" ultimate wet dream. You stop at the gas-station, unload your empty tank and snap in a fully charged one within 1min, with zero CO2.

But it will all depend on electric drive-trains,  matter or antimatter.

 

As the cars industries is learning steps, it seems to me  RR-industry prospects on "fuel-enhancement" as well. But they have electrical drive-trains already.

  - I would be very interesting in results!

  - why, the heck, RR let heavy trains run downgrade, using dynamic breaking instead of  charging batteries somewhere?

 

-lars



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Posted by erikem on Saturday, February 12, 2011 12:26 AM

Lars,

1Nm is about equal to 0.74 pound-feet of torque - remember 1 pound is about 4.44 Newtons (pounds and Newtons are units of force, not mass).

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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, February 12, 2011 1:46 AM

Erik,

thank you for correction,  I did just wanted to give a rough and quick scope, but stumbled here about the right conversion.

-lars

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Posted by episette on Thursday, February 17, 2011 12:18 AM

I had a similar thought about a year ago and was in the process of designing the solution and then patenting it but GE already patented that idea in 2000.  I was planning to replace the diesel prime mover of a SD or a GE C type locomotive with LIB batteries but leave the electric wheel motors in place. The batteries would be charged either by the dynamic brakes or by other the diesel engines in the consist via the MU cable.   It would use the battery power to push the train up a hill and then use the dynamic brake electricity to recharge the batteries going down the other side instead of wasting that potential energy as heat. This slave unit would allow consists of older locomotives to function in a similar manner as the GE-2010 hybrid locomotive and would save thousands of gallons of fuel per year.

It could also be charged by unused diesel capacity if the dynamics were unable to or even be used as a slug for low speed switching or with locals in a manner similar to a Railpower RP20CD Green Goat.   

 

The patent is already held by GE so I'm looking for my next new idea.  

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Thursday, February 17, 2011 6:39 AM

This sounds like a proposal that was mentioned in Middleton's "When The Steam Roads Electrified".  The proposal was for an electrified coal-hauler out of New Mexico which would use the electricity generated by regenerative braking from loaded trains moving downgrade to power the returning empties upgrade.  The ICC rejected the proposal for a variety of reasons, including unrealistic cost and revenue estimates.

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Posted by oltmannd on Thursday, February 17, 2011 8:50 AM

Bucyrus
It is amazing that with all the technical talent and funding trying to execute a propulsion system as old as the discovery of electricity, they could miss the mark on #999.  With this electric drive craze, it is almost as if developers are driven solely by the obsession to abandon oil no matter what it takes, and therefore are blinded to the well known limitations of battery power. 
 

Battery powered drive is the symbolism of green propulsion over the substance of the laws of physics.  The centerpiece of this impossible dream will be the new Chevy Volt.  

My guess is that the 999 was mostly engineered in Altoona by the shop's engineers, not Roanoke or Atlanta by Research and Test and Mechanical's Electrical Engineers and that has a lot to do with why it is the way it is...

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Posted by oltmannd on Thursday, February 17, 2011 9:00 AM

petitnj

As a rule of thumb 1 KW-hr = 1.3 horsepower-hr and the typical power density of a battery is about 0.1 KW-hr/Kg. If a locomotive has 30 tons (15,000 Kg) of batter you can store 1,500 Hp-hr's in a fully charged battery. That means 1 hour of operating for a small switcher. You really cannot get that much power stored in batteries and need a way to continuously keep the battery charged. It is amazing that a tank of diesel fuel is very power dense and a tank full (1000 gal or 4000 kg) will last the locomotive for about 50 hours at full power.

Sounds about right.  So, a six axle battery powered helper with 120 tons of batteries could keep churning for a couple hours.  A trip from Altoona to Cresson takes about half an hour.  Add in the recharging from the downhill portion, you might get a couple of shifts out of a charge.

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Posted by carnej1 on Thursday, February 17, 2011 11:19 AM

episette

I had a similar thought about a year ago and was in the process of designing the solution and then patenting it but GE already patented that idea in 2000.  I was planning to replace the diesel prime mover of a SD or a GE C type locomotive with LIB batteries but leave the electric wheel motors in place. The batteries would be charged either by the dynamic brakes or by other the diesel engines in the consist via the MU cable.   It would use the battery power to push the train up a hill and then use the dynamic brake electricity to recharge the batteries going down the other side instead of wasting that potential energy as heat. This slave unit would allow consists of older locomotives to function in a similar manner as the GE-2010 hybrid locomotive and would save thousands of gallons of fuel per year.

It could also be charged by unused diesel capacity if the dynamics were unable to or even be used as a slug for low speed switching or with locals in a manner similar to a Railpower RP20CD Green Goat.   

 

The patent is already held by GE so I'm looking for my next new idea.  

It's interesting to search GOOGLE PATENTS for railroad technology applications..I note that there are a number of patents that are held either by General Electric (as well as an Engineer by the name of A.J Kumar who works for/with them) or Frank Donnelly, the founder and former CEO of Railpower, covering energy capture and storage systems for locomotive use.

 The NS Patent covering the Unit 999 technology is also available on that site..

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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, February 17, 2011 12:03 PM

oltmannd

 Bucyrus:
It is amazing that with all the technical talent and funding trying to execute a propulsion system as old as the discovery of electricity, they could miss the mark on #999.  With this electric drive craze, it is almost as if developers are driven solely by the obsession to abandon oil no matter what it takes, and therefore are blinded to the well known limitations of battery power. 
 

Battery powered drive is the symbolism of green propulsion over the substance of the laws of physics.  The centerpiece of this impossible dream will be the new Chevy Volt.  

 

My guess is that the 999 was mostly engineered in Altoona by the shop's engineers, not Roanoke or Atlanta by Research and Test and Mechanical's Electrical Engineers and that has a lot to do with why it is the way it is...

I understand that the NS #999 was developed in a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, the FRA, and Penn State.  The NS shop assembled the locomotive, but there was some high priced talent designing it. 

 

What is amazing in all the hoopla surrounding the 999 at rollout was the boasting about the locomotive being pure electric, 100% clean, zero emissions, and green.  Don’t let reality get in the way of important symbolism.      

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Posted by episette on Thursday, February 17, 2011 1:44 PM

Batteries are still charged by burning a fossil fuel because the regions covered by nuclear wind, solar and hydro  and transmitted on an inefficient power grid are far from common in the US, so while battery locomotives might be more efficient than their non-hybrid/battery siblings, they are still far from the claim of being 100% green.  

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