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Battery powered locomotives

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

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

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

  • 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.

    - Erik

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Paul The commute to work may be part of the daily grind, but I get two train rides a day out of it.
  • 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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  • 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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  • 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.

    - Erik

  • 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.

    - Erik


  • 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.

    Paul The commute to work may be part of the daily grind, but I get two train rides a day out of it.
  • 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.

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

  • 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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