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Rail News Home Mechanical

August 2009

Rail News: Mechanical

Locomotive Manufacturers Offer Information on their Fuel-Saving Models


Compiled by Angela Cotey, Associate Editor

Fuel costs might have dipped a bit this year compared with summer 2008’s record-high prices, but they still rank as one of railroads’ top expenses. To manage fuel costs, railroads rely on a range of strategies — implementing fuel-saving technology, developing motivational and educational programs geared toward keeping fuel savings top of mind for employees, and purchasing fuel-efficient locomotives.

Railroads and transit agencies have plenty of options when they take the latter route. Locomotive suppliers continue to tweak existing models or introduce more fuel-efficient ones that cut down on fuel use. Options range from locomotives that feature onboard technology designed to reduce fuel consumption, to units that use regenerative braking and propulsion technology, to electric models that don’t consume any fuel.

In an email to eight locomotive manufacturers, Progressive Railroading sought information on today’s fuel-saving units. Their responses follow.


Alstom’s locomotives — designed to combine efficiency, economic performance and sustainable development — use the latest technological innovations for reducing energy consumption (improved traction system efficiency), according to the company.

The Prima II, an electric locomotive that can reach 6,400 kW and speeds of 125 mph in the passenger version and 88 mph in the freight version, is no exception: Energy savings are achieved through specific systems such as the regenerative brakes, which recover energy generated during braking and transmit it to the catenary power supply.

Reducing noise pollution is another priority; Prima is designed to meet the European Union’s technical specifications for interoperability (TSI) for noise.

The product life cycle — from design to recycling — “represents an investment for the future” and has been improved through the use of materials such as steel and copper, Alstom says. The Prima complies with Alstom’s environmental policy and is 95 percent recyclable.

Prima locomotives benefit from Alstom’s experience in what is known as “passive” safety. The Prima is equipped with a “deformation zone” with fusible modules set behind the buffers. Easily replaceable, these modules absorb the energy from an impact in order to ensure the safety of onboard personnel and equipment.

The driver’s cabin is designed so as not to deform in the event of a standard collision. Alstom is “the only locomotive manufacturer to offer this solution, which provides the best protection against the most extreme crash scenarios set out in the European Union’s TSIs,” according to the company.

Locomotive drivers, who are covering increasingly long distances, require greater comfort in their cabins.

The Prima II cabin layouts can include a bunk or hammock to enable drivers to rest. A toilet and microwave oven or refrigerator also can be installed in the cabin.

Bombardier Transportation

The efficient use of energy has been on the agenda of Bombardier locomotive development and design engineers since the introduction of AC propulsion technology in the 1970s. The latest technology is incorporated into the new European TRAXX and North American ALP locomotive platforms. These locomotive families use state-of-the-art propulsion technology increasing the overall power efficiency compared to previous designs. The power flow is bi-directional, allowing for maximum regeneration (reuse) of braking energy to the catenary and to the coaches in passenger trains. This technology allows energy savings at commuter railroads of 10 percent to 20 percent, depending on the type of train service.

The train operator can contribute to energy savings by taking advantage of the train momentum on uphill stretches and applying the regenerative brake to its maximum when braking. The energy absorption and regeneration levels on Bombardier locomotives can be displayed to the train operator in real time, so energy consumption can be compared against a benchmark or the energy readings can be used for initiatives within the railroad toward energy savings.

The new ALP locomotive platform for North America incorporates “all the newest energy saving features,” according to Bombardier. It consists of the ALP-46A electric and ALP-45DP dual-powered locomotives. The latter allows a one-seat-ride on both electric and non-electrified routes. It is fitted with two diesel engines which substantially reduces exhaust emissions and increases fuel economy while idling or at low power demand. These ALP locomotives are currently being delivered to New Jersey Transit and Montreal’s Agence Métropolitaine de Transport.

Brookville Equipment Corp.

Brookville Equipment Corp.’s (BEC) 90 years of experience has led the company to assemble “innovative” systems and integrate them into each locomotive it builds, providing the best value for their customers, the company says. BEC builds each locomotive using powerful building blocks that include efficient and low-emission Tier 2 or Tier 3 engines.

The company then marries the engine with a traction and engine control unit featuring the “most advanced” microprocessor on the market, according to BEC. The TECU is custom-applied to the locomotive to maintain infinite control over wheel slip and slide, maximizing available alternator supplied energy. Reducing wheel slippage, BEC can apply more power to each wheelset and effectively pull more weight with less engine horsepower. Brookville then calculates the optimal engine RPM and sets each engine to produce the best fuel economy.

BEC’s CoGeneration locomotives incorporate regenerative braking into its equipment, providing recycled braking energies into the main electrical system, further reducing diesel/electric supplied power requirements for ancillary loads. Properly harnessed braking energies can be used for providing nearly 230 horsepower of engine-supplied electrical power. The BEC regenerative braking system captures nearly 90 percent of all braking energies that are then available for immediate reuse or storage, further reducing engine fuel usage.

BEC’s CoGeneration locomotives also feature an anti-wheel slip system that can provide faster acceleration and quicker turnaround times. Combined with a Tier 3 engine, the locomotive can perform its haulage requirements faster, using less fuel, the company says.

Electro-Motive Diesel Inc.

EMD is the only manufacturer to have shipped more than 70,000 diesel engines and 60,000 locomotives worldwide, according to the company. In recent years, EMD has been granted 27 patents on new technologies for its 710 engine platform, reducing emissions and improving fuel efficiency. A new EMD SD70ACe or SD70M-2 locomotive can save nearly 250,000 gallons of fuel over its lifetime compared to locomotives produced as recently as five years ago.

EMD’s 710ECO Repower solution lets railroads leverage their fleet investment by updating older locomotives with the latest microprocessor-controlled engine technology, for lower emissions, greater reliability, easier serviceability and predictable maintenance costs. And up to 25 percent fuel savings and 50 percent lube oil reductions create immediate bottom-line benefits.

With the issuance of its 40CFR Part 1033 regulation, the EPA began to phase-in more stringent emissions requirements for Tier 0 and Tier 1 locomotive engine overhauls. EMD has focused its emissions kit development to achieve the new levels without sacrificing fuel efficiency. EMD Tier 0+ kits offer up to 2 percent fuel savings versus previous engine configurations.

EMD incorporates Automatic Engine Start/Stop into all new, repowered, and upgraded locomotives to eliminate more than 50 percent of engine idling time. AESS saves fuel by shutting the engine down when all key parameters (e.g. water temp, reservoir pressures, battery voltage, etc.) are at optimum levels.

GE Transportation

GE’s Evolution® Series Locomotive is 5 percent more fuel efficient than previous locomotives, saving about 300,000 gallons of fuel over its lifetime.

“The Evolution also is more than 6 percent more fuel efficient than GE’s closest competitor in North America as validated by a nationally recognized, independent research institute,” GE said in an email.

More than 3,200 Evolution Locomotives are in service worldwide.

GE’s Evolution Series Model ES44C4, an AC alternative for traditional DC locomotive applications, uses up to 17 percent less fuel compared with older DC locomotives. Six hundred ES44C4s can displace up to 800 older DC locomotives to save more than 70 million gallons of fuel annually.

GE’s PowerHaul® Locomotive is projected to reduce fuel use by up to 9 percent compared to current operating fleet averages. The first PowerHaul locomotives are scheduled for delivery to the United Kingdom’s Freightliner Group later this year.

Meanwhile, GE’s Trip Optimizer is an automated system that optimizes fuel use based on a train’s makeup and route. The system calculates a fuel optimal-speed profile for the trip and then automatically controls the throttle to maintain the speed. Results measured by CP on intermodal freight demonstrated a fuel savings from 6 percent to more than 10 percent. Other pilot tests of bulk commodity trains have shown fuel savings up to 20 percent.

GE’s LOCOTROL® Distributed Power increases long-haul capacity by applying power and control commands to locomotives placed throughout the train. With LOCOTROL, engineers can start and stop trains faster and more efficiently to increase network velocity. In addition, Distributed Power reduces break-in-twos and improves fuel by 4 percent to 6 percent.

MotivePower Inc.

MotivePower, Inc (MPI), a subsidiary of Wabtec Corp., provides locomotive products and services ranging from maintenance service agreements to manufacturing complete new commuter and freight switcher locomotives in its Boise facilities. The MPI Boise complex comprises more than 40 acres of manufacturing capability.

MPI has provided new and remanufactured locomotives to major commuter railroads that incorporate upgrades for major fuel and emissions reduction solutions. Key among these products is the Q-Tron brand microprocessor control system used on many of the locomotives MPI produces. The system functions as the “brains” of the locomotive and

controls the locomotive power while monitoring and recording data points for maintenance and analysis purposes. Among the Q-Tron system options is an Automatic Engine Start/Stop (AESS) feature providing fuel savings by automatically shutting down the engine when idling for long periods of time and when temperatures permit. Similarly, the AESS function starts the engine if certain parameters, including engine oil and

coolant temperatures get too low. These parameters can be tailored for each customer if needed. Depending on duty cycle, fuel savings of 10 percent to 15 percent can be achieved, according to MotivePower.

Additionally, MPI’s MP21B gen-set locomotive utilizes multi-engine strategy to minimize fuel consumption by having more than one engine operating only when more horsepower is required. This provides for fuel savings in the 25 percent to 50 percent range depending on duty cycle.

“We will continue our development of fuel management solutions in pursuit of our customers’ success and savings objectives” said MotivePower’s Gary Eelman, Vice President - Sales, Marketing & Customer Service in a prepared statement.

National Railway Equipment Co.

Between 2001 and 2006, National Railway Equipment Co. developed and designed the N-ViroMotive GenSet locomotive, which now serves the North American and international four- and six-axle locomotive markets. Originally prototyped for Class I switching yard services, the ultra-low-emission locomotive has expanded its application parameters to include new locomotive duty cycles, including passenger services and mainline freight.

The GenSet uses between 40 percent and 70 percent less fuel than other locomotives on the market, depending on locomotive duty cycle applications, NREC said.

The locomotive also has obtained U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certification for its low emissions of nitrous oxides and particulate matter (up to 85 percent and 90 percent less, respectively, compared with uncontrolled locomotive emissions), and already meets EPA’s Tier 3 locomotive emission regulations for 2012, according to NREC.

The GenSet is available in models ranging from 700 to 3,600 horsepower and reaches speeds up to 110 mph.

To date, more than 250 production units have either been shipped or are being built for BNSF Railway Co., Canadian Pacific, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Corp., Union Pacific Railroad, RailAmerica Inc., Fort Worth & Western Railroad, Pacific Harbor Line Inc., Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and other short lines, transit agencies, industrial customers and government entities.

R.J. Corman/Railpower

R.J. Corman Railpower’s RP Series 1,400 horsepower four-axle and 2,100 horsepower four- and six-axle GenSets feature advanced technologies that maximize fuel efficiency. The most notable features that impact fuel management in the RP Series design include:

  • Deutz Engine: The next-generation Deutz engine (Tier IVi) used in the RP Series modular design utilizes SCR and eliminates EGR on the engine.

“These enhancements will improve fuel economy by 5 percent and allow the RP Series to meet locomotive Tier IV emission standards effective January 2015,” R.J. Corman said.

Deutz plans to make the package available the latter half of 2010, with full availability for the 2011 model year.

“Not only will the next-generation Deutz engine positively impact fuel management, but this Tier IVi engine will allow customers to remain good stewards to surrounding communities by surpassing EPA regulations for locomotives,” the company said.

  • Variable Engine Speed: By using constant voltage DC Bus technology, the RP Series optimizes fuel usage based on engine demand. Instead of running at consistently higher RPMs, which is common for conventional and other GenSet locomotives, the RP Series engine is able to reduce RPMs based on need, thereby reducing fuel usage, according to the company.
  • Power-on-Demand: The RP Series only utilizes the number of GenSets necessary for the immediate workload. If demand on the locomotive only requires one GenSet, the remaining GenSets are shut down, minimizing fuel usage.
  • Auto Start/Stop: Engine and locomotive parameters and ambient conditions are monitored, and when they are within a defined range, all engines shut down, stopping unnecessary fuel usage.


Browse articles on Alstom Bombardier Brookville Equipment Electro-Motive Diesel GE Transportation MotivePower National Railway Equipment R.J. Corman Railpower locomotive fuel consumption fuel management

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