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UP's future electric locomotives

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UP's future electric locomotives
Posted by NKP guy on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 12:55 PM

   Newswire today features a story about Union Pacific looking toward using batteries to power their electric locomotives of the future.

   This would allow such locomotives to be used anywhere on UP's vast system.  Is this why UP is apparently not considering catenary-type power?  Why does it make sense to string wire from Portugal to Vladivostok, but not Los Angeles to somewhere else?  

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Posted by JPS1 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 1:17 PM

NKP guy
 Why does it make sense to string wire from Portugal to Vladivostok, but not Los Angeles to somewhere else?  

When was the wire strung?  And what were the alternatives at the time?

With the fast paced improvement in battery and hybrid technologies, they may be better alternatives in the not too distant future than stringing wire.  For an investor owned business, it comes down to the lowest effective cost, which includes cost and features.    

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 3:03 PM

I don't have enough faith in battery technology now or into the future to be able to have a 'battery powered' locomotive(s) capable of moving 15K foot 15K ton trains cross country.

https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/energy/551207-new-study-explains-why-nearly-20-percent-of-electric

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 3:13 PM

NKP guy
Why does it make sense to string wire from Portugal to Vladivostok, but not Los Angeles to somewhere else?

Generally our power grid only extends to populated areas.    In areas where UP transits with no power grid it would also have to build power substations, thats if UP wanted to draw from the consumer grid at all.    Likely UP would provide it's own electrical power infrastructure plus overhead wires, plus a new fleet of locomotives.     It would cost UP mutiple billions of dollars.    Before they embark on such a venture I am sure they would study which was relatively cheaper.   Horsepower provided by electricity or HP provided by fossil fuel.    Diesel is still probably averaging to be the cheapest power otherwise UP would have converted before now

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Posted by JPS1 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 3:16 PM

BaltACD

I don't have enough faith in battery technology now or into the future to be able to have a 'battery powered' locomotive(s) capable of moving 15K foot 15K ton trains cross country.

https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/energy/551207-new-study-explains-why-nearly-20-percent-of-electric  

In 1920 few if any foresaw jet powered airplanes crossing the Pacific at Flight Level 28 to 32 at 535 mph.  With passengers eating a meal and watching a movie.  A talkie at that!  The same thinking is prevelant today.  Most people cannot or will not envision a future that is radically different from the present.  

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Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 3:46 PM

JPS1
 
BaltACD

I don't have enough faith in battery technology now or into the future to be able to have a 'battery powered' locomotive(s) capable of moving 15K foot 15K ton trains cross country.

https://thehill.com/changing-america/sustainability/energy/551207-new-study-explains-why-nearly-20-percent-of-electric   

In 1920 few if any foresaw jet powered airplanes crossing the Pacific at Flight Level 28 to 32 at 535 mph.  With passengers eating a meal and watching a movie.  A talkie at that!  The same thinking is prevelant today.  Most people cannot or will not envision a future that is radically different from the present.  

I have not heard even rumors of 'radical battery technology' that would give a locomotive the power potential of a 5000 gallon fuel tank on current locomotives and being contianed within the size of the 5000 gallon fuel tank.  I believe in technology, I also believe in science.  Wishing for something doesn't make it so.  Breakthroughs follow rumors about them - the rumor mill has been mostly quiet.

Considering the vulnerability of the fuel tank once a locomotive leaves the rails - that would not be among the best locations to put the battery.

My Grandfather was born in 1892 and passed on in 1989.  He lived from the horse drawn world to man learning how to fly through two horrendous Wars to see man land on the Moon.  He even got to fly commercially himself on a vacation trip with my Father, before he passed (10 years before my Grandfather).

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 5:19 PM

Well here is the reserve capacity that each battery locomotive better have to have the range.  It better have a battery capacity that is useable of 203 MW of power in that battery at full charge.  Why that is how much power 5000 gallons of diesel fuel converts into in electric power.  I know Tesla's proposed Battery pack for the OTR truck they want to build was in the 10MW range.  That cell prototyped out at over 15K pounds for the battery pack alone with the cooling package attached.  Let alone the drivetrain and body of the truck.  

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 5:29 PM

At one time, I would have doubted this would ever happen.

Then I bought a cordless drill.  It would drill a few holes and lose power.  I could recharge it, but it took hours.  I still was a doubter.

Now I have some Dewalt batteries that will power a tool as powerful as a plug-in tool, and it will do it for hours.  Then it will recharge in under an hour.

All of this happened in a matter of a few years.

I'm not going to bet against new technology.

Of course, I'm not an electrical engineer or a technology expert, and I know nothing about the technology needed, so it may be pie-in-the-sky.

York1 John       

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Posted by NKP guy on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 7:34 PM

CMStPnP
In areas where UP transits with no power grid it would also have to build power substations, thats if UP wanted to draw from the consumer grid at all.    Likely UP would provide it's own electrical power infrastructure plus overhead wires, plus a new fleet of locomotives.     It would cost UP mutiple billions of dollars. 

   I understand the logic of your good argument.

   But...certainly Russia east of the Urals is more off the power grid than our western states, yet they have wire.

   I agree about the supporting power infrastructure that would be needed.

   Wouldn't you agree that this sort of huge change is going to cost Union Pacific billions of dollars no matter which path they choose?

   And does this all mean that it's unlikely that any more track will be electrified (by catenary) in the USA in the foreseeable future, or maybe ever again?  

   Is the age of the catenary in the New World possibly coming to a sooner-than-expected end, thanks to improved batteries and alternative fuels?

 

 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 7:48 PM

NKP,

You're going to see North American freight railroads electrify the same amount of trackage in the next 50 years as they have in the past 50.

For better or worse Russia, China, and most of Europe have state owned railway systems.  There is no shareholder pressure and their governments and societies obviously view railway electrification projects to be a wise investment, even if the positive returns are not immediate or measured in dollars.  

Electrifying with catenary also requires a new fleet of locomotives to go along with the cost of building and maintaining the electrical infrastructure.  Battery locomotives would eliminate a lot of that capital investment and ongoing maintenance costs.

We'll see what happens in the future with battery technology.  At this time it is not a serious competitor to road diesel locomotives, but the same was true for diesel vs steam in say 1925.  

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Posted by York1 on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 8:13 PM

SD70Dude
You're going to see North American freight railroads electrify the same amount of trackage in the next 50 years as they have in the past 50. For better or worse Russia, China, and most of Europe have state owned railway systems.  There is no shareholder pressure and their governments and societies obviously view railway electrification projects to be a wise investment, even if the positive returns are not immediate or measured in dollars.  

 

I agree.

Russia and China also don't have hundreds of environmental lawyers who would fight and delay any power generating stations UP would need.

Europe, on the other hand, doesn't have the vast expanses of land that would add to the difficulty of electrifying the UP system.

 

York1 John       

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 11:28 PM

BaltACD

I have not heard even rumors of 'radical battery technology' that would give a locomotive the power potential of a 5000 gallon fuel tank on current locomotives and being contianed within the size of the 5000 gallon fuel tank.  I believe in technology, I also believe in science.  Wishing for something doesn't make it so.  Breakthroughs follow rumors about them - the rumor mill has been mostly quiet.

With no prime mover (plus radiator, etc) or alternator, the batteries would most likely go on top of the frame. The best avialable battery technology is about a factor of two from having the equivalent of a 5,000 gallon fuel tank in terms of useful energy capacity. From what I've seen, that factor of two improvement might be available by the end of the decade. One caveat is that recharging said battery will be no where near as quick as refilling a 5,000 gallon tank. This implies a throwback tp the steam days where locomotives would only run over a few divisions - which is not going to sit well with the bean counters.

OTOH, I do see battery locomotives becoming practical for switching and commuter service where locomotives have at least some extended idle time during the 24 hour day (which probably isn't true for a good subset of switchers).

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Posted by Shadow the Cats owner on Thursday, May 6, 2021 7:29 AM

If you look at the proposed money for Amtrak in Biden's infastructre bill over half of that money is just to repair the NE corridor alone.  32 Billion dollars for what 300 miles of ROW that is electrified.  Yes most of that is for new Hudson River Tunnels.  However I asked a couple friends in the MOW of the BNSF and they are saying heard that it would be about 100 Million a mile for the BNSF to electrify their mainlines.  That was the estimate they heard based on all the figures for all the enviromential impact studies lawsuits fighting the NIMBY's and BANANA's and everything else.  So roughly 1 Billion for every 10 miles of track per mainline is what the BNSF is guessing due to all the legal fights.  So on the odds of seeing an electrified Class 1 mainline in the USA is about the same as seeing a Bigfoot in the wild ZERO.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:52 AM

Shadow the Cats owner

However I asked a couple friends in the MOW of the BNSF and they are saying heard that it would be about 100 Million a mile for the BNSF to electrify their mainlines.  That was the estimate they heard based on all the figures for all the enviromential impact studies lawsuits fighting the NIMBY's and BANANA's and everything else.  So roughly 1 Billion for every 10 miles of track per mainline is what the BNSF is guessing due to all the legal fights.  So on the odds of seeing an electrified Class 1 mainline in the USA is about the same as seeing a Bigfoot in the wild ZERO.

That number is over 20 times the cost of building a second main track.  Seems a bit inflated to me.  

I found an audit report which stated Amtrak spent over $600 million to electrify the 155 miles between New Haven and Boston, which works out to about $4 million per mile.  And this is per route mile not track mile, most if not all of that line has at least two main tracks.

I wonder what Russia spent to electrify the Trans-Siberian line?

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Posted by BaltACD on Thursday, May 6, 2021 11:37 AM

SD70Dude
 
Shadow the Cats owner

However I asked a couple friends in the MOW of the BNSF and they are saying heard that it would be about 100 Million a mile for the BNSF to electrify their mainlines.  That was the estimate they heard based on all the figures for all the enviromential impact studies lawsuits fighting the NIMBY's and BANANA's and everything else.  So roughly 1 Billion for every 10 miles of track per mainline is what the BNSF is guessing due to all the legal fights.  So on the odds of seeing an electrified Class 1 mainline in the USA is about the same as seeing a Bigfoot in the wild ZERO. 

That number is over 20 times the cost of building a second main track.  Seems a bit inflated to me.  

I found an audit report which stated Amtrak spent over $600 million to electrify the 155 miles between New Haven and Boston, which works out to about $4 million per mile.  And this is per route mile not track mile, most if not all of that line has at least two main tracks.

I wonder what Russia spent to electrify the Trans-Siberian line?

The thing about electrification in countries other that the USA - it is government financed.

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Posted by JPS1 on Thursday, May 6, 2021 12:49 PM

BaltACD
  The thing about electrification in countries other that the USA - it is government financed. 

The last segments of the PRR's wiring between NYC and DC, as well as between Paoli and Harriburg, were completed during the Depression with low cost Public Works Administration loans.  They were paid back in full.

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Posted by JPS1 on Thursday, May 6, 2021 1:04 PM
Battery technology has come a long way since WWII.  Who is to say that it will not continue to develop much further? 
 
An American WWII Electric Boat Company submarine could run submerged on its batteries at an average speed of 2 to 3 knots for up to 48 hours.  A modern diesel/electric submarine can run submerged on its batteries at an average speed of 2 to 3 knots for up to seven days. 
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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, May 6, 2021 1:42 PM

JPS1
The last segments of the PRR's wiring between NYC and DC, as well as between Paoli and Harrisburg, were completed during the Depression with low cost Public Works Administration loans.

And lest we forget, so were the J3a 'Super Hudsons' on NYC.

Pump priming, like so much else of what actually worked in the New Deal, was a Hoover idea.  The idea is to use Keynesian access to capital to produce or augment meaningful productive assets that will then 'keep on giving', as opposed to make-work annual 'stimulus' projects that only create jobs while they're going.

I found it fascinating, when I was younger, that the electrification loans were not provided for the railroad west of Harrisburg, including the sections that would most benefit from it.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, May 6, 2021 4:17 PM

I read, I believe in Railway Age, that some think fuel cells will be more practical for over the road railroad service.  (I've also seen some articles that for road vehicles, fuel cells will also be more practical.)  Straight battery vehicles may have their place, but it might not be a one size fits all situation.  Time will tell.

IMO, most companies - railroad or not - are embracing the current political climate of "green" energy.  They feel they need to be seen as being proactive.  Whether experimentation actually leads to anything or not at this point is secondary. 

Jeff

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Posted by LANDON ROWELL on Thursday, May 6, 2021 10:12 PM

RRs have successfully tested battery powered locos already.

Wabtec's offering is a road locomotive that effectively charges off of the diesel locos it is MU'd to. While not an energy source in itself, it can store energy generated by dynamic brakes and reuse it when needed.

EMD's offering is a swtcher that may not need to venture far from its power source. Commuter trains wouldn't need to either. Both do a lot of braking so they could recover and reuse a lot of energy if dynamic brakes are used.

I don't see battery or catenary as an either/or question. Catenary is expensive but batteries have limited range. Put up catenary not on the whole route. Battery powered locos could recharge when under catenary and the batteries could carry them through to the next stretch. 

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Posted by kgbw49 on Friday, May 7, 2021 9:02 AM

In terms of catenary cost, this is not a perfect comparison, but the Metropolitan Commission of the Twin Cities Metro Area is spending a little over $2 billion for the 14.5-mile Southwest Light Rail Transit line, or about $138 million per mile.

If freight rail electrification is one one-hundredth of that per mile, a 30,000 mile system would need $41 billion to electrify their system.

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, May 9, 2021 9:33 AM

Landon. may I nit-pick a bit?

When electric energy produced in braking is either stored or absrbed by third-rail or catenary to power other trains, the correct term is regenerative-braking, not dynamic braking.  And some equipment does both.

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Posted by bogie_engineer on Sunday, May 9, 2021 12:40 PM

Twenty years ago at EMD we were studying energy storage with batteries via regenerative braking and updated our train simulation program to incorporate that capability. I ran simulations on a coal train from the powder river basin to a power plant in Texas, a 48 hour round trip, and the result was about 16% fuel savings using a reasonable battery capacity and system efficiencies on an SD70MAC. I also did a BNSF commuter train from Chicago to Aurora making every stop and showed a 48% fuel savings. At that time, the battery of choice was NiMH and the cost of the batteries was not justified by the fuel savings for either. Today, I'm sure the economics are more favorable; whether enough yet I don't know, but have to think at least the commuter application would be a winner.

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, May 9, 2021 1:49 PM

I agree stringing catenary fr freight operations doesw seem to make ec9nomic sense to me.  Why are commuter and even light rail so different?  Jersey Transit has a diesel light rail operation, in addition to its two electric ones.  Why did Denver opt for electric MUs and Cal Trans is in the midst of electrifying a diesel operation?  And why is freight so different?

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, May 9, 2021 3:15 PM

daveklepper
I agree stringing catenary fr freight operations doesw seem to make ec9nomic sense to me.  Why are commuter and even light rail so different?  Jersey Transit has a diesel light rail operation, in addition to its two electric ones.  Why did Denver opt for electric MUs and Cal Trans is in the midst of electrifying a diesel operation?  And why is freight so different?

I'd feature it takes a WHOLE LOT more electricty to move 15K tons than it does to move a 500 ton commuter train.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, May 9, 2021 3:24 PM

Caltrain runs a busy passenger route into the centre of a densly populated urban area whose population knows the value of controlling smog-forming emissions better than many, and would also seem to be politically predisposed to spending large amounts of money on such actions.

Caltrain's track is also to be shared by the California High Speed Rail system in the future, and it would need to be electrified anyway for this.

The difference between North American freight and passenger operations is the same as the difference between North American and Eurasian railroads in general:  Private vs public ownership.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, May 9, 2021 5:44 PM

daveklepper
When electric energy produced in braking is either stored or absorbed by third-rail or catenary to power other trains, the correct term is regenerative-braking, not dynamic braking.

Actually, the correct term is 'dynamic braking' at the motor, at least in all the texts I have.  The 'regenerative' part has to do with conditioning and transferring the dynamically-generated power to an external sink instead of dissipating it as heat.  (In fact I remember some texts discussing reverse motoring as a form of dynamic braking, which I formally do not.)

It is perfectly "correct" to call the braking action itself, at the wheels, "dynamic braking".  We have created the distinction purely for convenience in avoiding potential confusion...

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Sunday, May 9, 2021 6:18 PM

bogie_engineer

Twenty years ago at EMD we were studying energy storage with batteries via regenerative braking and updated our train simulation program to incorporate that capability. I ran simulations on a coal train from the powder river basin to a power plant in Texas, a 48 hour round trip, and the result was about 16% fuel savings using a reasonable battery capacity and system efficiencies on an SD70MAC.

Which is almost exactly the same savings that the Milwaukee was gettig from use of regeneration with the 1916 electrification. Savings from reduction in brake wear was greater than from savings in electric energy.

I also did a BNSF commuter train from Chicago to Aurora making every stop and showed a 48% fuel savings. At that time, the battery of choice was NiMH and the cost of the batteries was not justified by the fuel savings for either. Today, I'm sure the economics are more favorable; whether enough yet I don't know, but have to think at least the commuter application would be a winner.

I would expect that a Lithium battery optimized for high power density and high cycle life could be economically feasible. What would make or a even better case would adding 3 to 6 MW of power during acceleration to increase schedule speed along with reduction in fuel consumption. Been wondering about the commuter rail application since first reading about the experimental F69 in the 1990's.

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Posted by YoHo1975 on Monday, May 10, 2021 11:45 AM

Yeah, the economics on Li-ion Batteries is incredibly different than what was happening 20 years ago. The price per watt has cratered. Now whether you can reasonably build a big enough batter pack is a question not yet answered. Though Wabtec and Progress are working on that issue now with Demos out. 

 

On of the reasons a commuter agency can string catenary is that they have less to string, the power is closer at hand, and the environmental impact of the Diesel exhaust more distinct. Plus, the ability to get up to speed fast with electric is really an advantage.

 

It sure does seem that battery locomotives are going to be at least as impactful as gensets were 15ish years ago. And potentially bigger as we've discussed in other threads.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, May 10, 2021 12:15 PM

YoHo1975

It sure does seem that battery locomotives are going to be at least as impactful as gensets were 15ish years ago. And potentially bigger as we've discussed in other threads.

 
As has been observed elsewhere, gensets have not exactly had a major impact over the long-term.  Most are being retired after 15 years when they are fully depreciated for accounting and tax purposes.
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