General Electric is introducing a new Hybrid Locomotive as part of the company’s ecomagination campaign. Hybrid locomitves combining diesel with electric power is nothing new. It’s the ability of these engines to harness the energy typically wasted as heat during braking that represents a significant step forward.
Regenerative braking, similar to the method used in a Toyota Prius, would represent significant energy savings. According to GE, the energy wasted during braking for a 207-ton locomotive over the course of one year is enough to the annual energy consumption of 160 households.
If GE can figure out a method to harness a sizable portion of this energy, both fuel consumption and pollution would be dramatically reduced. GE estimates a 15 percent reduction in fuel and a 50 percent reduction in emissions compared to current freight train technology. The hybrids will also perform better at altitude and on steep climbs.
GE claims that if every locomotive in the U.S. were switched to this hybrid technology, the nation would save $425 million in fuel.
Whether the figures touted include the extra resources that go into making the additional batteries necessary to store all of this energy, the environmental costs of their disposal, or extra financial costs associated with this technology is unclear. But, according to GE, this aint no pie-in-the-sky: their hybrid locomotive is slated to roll out in 2010.
It should come as no surprise that we here at Carectomy love trains. If we can take a great invention and make it even greener, more efficient, and faster, it’ll make it hard to ignore what is becoming increasingly obvious: we need more trains, more routes, and a better infrastructure in the U.S.
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