Rail hybrid-train

Published on March 28th, 2012 | by Christopher DeMorro

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GE's Hybrid Locomotive Cuts Fuel Consumption And Emissions

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken a look back at the rail innovations of GE through the lens of their recently launched annual reports data visualization. These innovations include America’s first electrification project and a train powered by beef tallow. But now I want to talk about hybrids, specifically GE’s Hybrid Evolution locomotive, which is being designed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions over its extended lifetime.

The GE Evolution Hybrid train is being designed with sophisticated sodium-metal batteries that will store energy recovered during braking. I don’t have to tell you that it takes a lot of energy to stop a 207-ton locomotive. If GE can capture even a fraction of that energy, it can then be used by the crew to lower fuel consumption while providing a boost of up to 2,000 horsepower.

The impact such trains could have on the environment, and rail travel as a whole, cannot be understated. The U.S. has one of the most efficient and cost-effective freight rail lines in the world. Train shipping is already very cost competitive with other methods of travel, and GE’s Evolution Hybrid trains could reduce fuel consumption by as much as 15 percent. That’s 15 percent more money invested elsewhere in the company. The energy saved over the course of a year could power 9,100 homes over the same year time-period. That’s a lot of energy, folks.

More importantly (at least as far as Mother Nature is concerned), these trains could reduce pollution by up to 50%. If you take a look through the 132 years of annual reports aggregated in GE’s new Data Visualization, you’ll see that their portfolio is full of emissions and fuel-reducing innovations. The GE Evolution Hybrid locomotive was introduced way back in 2005, and as yet I don’t think it is in production. But with gas prices on the rise once more, now is as good a time as ever to introduce a fuel-saving train to locomotive buyers.

This post was written in collaboration with GE as part of their new Data Visualization app.


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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Benoit Essiambre

    The interesting thing with locomotives is that they already mostly all use a hybrid diesel-electric design where a diesel generator powers electric motors at the wheel. They even use the electric motors as generators for breaking but simply dissipate the extra energy in large resistors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_braking). It’s not a very big leap to add batteries to store and reuse some of the energy.

    • T Adkins

      very true to store that power instead of pushing it out as wasted heat thru those resistors would be great. I also wonder, with the scale of size that they are at, if using the waste heat from the diesel motors has been looked at to generate more electricity if BMW feels they can get 12-18% of combustion’s waste heat from a car think about it from a huge diesel motor.

  • danwat1234

    Good video of it; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuhmUuzN6jI

    Yeah using the heat from the engine would be great. But I’m not sure how they could use it without taking but some space in the locomotive for a steam turbine or something.

    • Benoit Essiambre

      Ha that would close a big loop in the history of locomotives wouldn’t it? They could even reintroduce those rail side water tanks!

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