Sunday, April 26, 2009

Green Passenger Rail

With Earth Day/Week just past, I've been thinking about how we might make Passenger Rail more radically green than freight rail already is. Yes, Veronica, the energy saving by moving a ton of freight over rail as opposed to over the road is much, much greater than that saved by moving a ton of passengers by rail as opposed to over the road, even in buses. That's because the amenities associated with long distance passenger rail (and to some extent even commuter rail) often weigh more than the passengers transported. So I've been thinking, what can we do about that?

The energy/fuel advantages of the concept of gensets appears to be widely accepted. Perhaps something similar to that can be incorporated into the next generation of passenger equipment. Was a time when some commuter trains in the Chicago Area carried their own generator cars on some railroads. They didn't have or need the head end power. And the head end power concept in which the prime mover is always running hard enough to light/heat/cool the passengers may be passe.

Would a genset aboard each car be the answer. Perhaps a hybrid technology involving batteries (like heavyweight and early lightweight passenger cars of old) and maybe even solar technologies (there's a lot of roof area on the passenger cars) would be ideal. Has anyone looked into this?

I would think that the fuel saving for a power-on-demand genset over a 220-volt system for the whole train (a little like a small town power coop) would be great. And we could look into powering all of the gensets with biodiesel or with other green fuels like used cooking oil. Maybe we could build something that would pipe the used oil from a dining car right into the gensets.

Also, I still like the idea of making all future new passenger routes, especially HSR and new dedicated rights-of-way, electrified. This again is power on demand. You never have a diesel idling in a station burning up fuel and money.

With all the dollars that will now flow to Passenger Rail, I sure hope we get it right and get it green.

© 2009 - C. A. Turek -
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