Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

Moderators: JamesT4, metraRI

  by TurningOfTheWheel
https://metrarail.com/about-metra/newsr ... ocomotives

Fair-use quote:
...Metra is challenging the industry to create a zero-emission commuter locomotive by converting an older engine from diesel to one powered solely by batteries.

The Metra Board of Directors at its April meeting today approved the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) that will ask manufacturers to propose solutions to convert three of Metra’s older F40PH-3 diesel locomotives to zero-emission battery power. The RFP will be issued in the upcoming days; the contract is expected to be awarded in the fall and the first solutions should be delivered about 30 months later.


Metra estimates that replacing three older diesel locomotives with zero-emission batteries would reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions by more than 100 tons per year and particulate matter (PM) emissions by more than two tons per year. By replacing diesel power with battery power, Metra will significantly reduce its emissions footprint and greatly improve air quality for its riders and the Chicago region.

Metra will require the zero-emission locomotives to be fully compatible with its existing railcars and diesel locomotives. They must be capable of operating on any Metra line with trains that range in size from two to 11 cars, and they must be capable of providing a safe and comfortable ride at all speeds up to the maximum speed of 79 mph. The batteries must also power onboard systems, such as lighting, intercoms and HVAC. The locomotives may be painted in a green version of Metra’s paint scheme (per the conceptual illustrations) to indicate the green technology.
  by eolesen
Interesting, but isn't this simply shifting the emissions from one source of electricity generation to another?

Gensets already failed as a concept once. Not sure how successful this will be, but at least the experimentation cost should be low if these are locomotives that would have otherwise been scrap value.

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  by justalurker66
The best feature is that the engine can be turned off. The typical diesel engine runs continuously burning energy even when it isn't on duty.
  by kitchin
eolesen wrote: Wed Apr 21, 2021 6:54 pm Interesting, but isn't this simply shifting the emissions from one source of electricity generation to another?

Also, some governments have or had offsets to subsidize solar power. Washington DC, for example, sends checks to solar producers outside DC. Like the table above, it's a matter or percentages, since some of that solar may have gone online without the subsidy at some later time.
Last edited by kitchin on Thu Apr 22, 2021 6:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by kitchin
Here's another tab from the same source. I'm not sure how to interpret these numbers, since Metra would take electricity off the grid. Northern Illinois is on a different national interchange grid than downstate. The state is a net exporter of electricity, and the largest producer of nuke power. (Note the first chart says "net," maybe meaning interstate net.) Illinois sends out about twice the combined consumption of DC and Vermont, which produce no electricity. All of this ignores rooftop solar.

The replacement for the electricity Metra would take is probably by natural gas, from an interstate perspective, in the short run. In the long run, the trend is towards renewables and Metra could incentivize that. The state already does.

And using less diesel drops the price and/or production a smidge. Still plenty of jobs for truck drivers on Chicago Craigslist.

To go full-on nerd, here's a chart from Lawrence Livermore. "Rejected energy" means heat loss. Happy Earth Day.
  by eolesen
It's true that IL has a bunch of nuclear, however.... those charts aren't reflecting a big change planned for later this year.

Last year, Exelon announced the closing of two of the three plants in the Chicago area (Byron and Dresden), which will take out about 25-30% of the state's nuclear production by 4Q21. Two other plants (Braidwood and La Salle) are at risk of closure as well, but realistically not before 2022.

That would leave only two operating plants in Ilinois, both of which are state subsidized until 2027, and then they too would be at risk of closure.

And... they're all owned by Exelon, who is losing hundreds of millions a year because nuclear is not competitive on the open market when compared with other forms of generation like wind or NG, thus they're not able to sell as much power as they used to when coal was the only serious competition.

Some see the closure announcements as a ploy to force IL into subsidizing the other Excelon plants, but given the the State's financial mess and the corruption investigations into Excelon that also brought down Speaker Madigan, I don't see the State being able to cut a sweetheart deal for Excelon without serious backlash.

Thus my assumption that this is an emissions swap. By the time Metra gets these units in use, it's possible that IL will be down to only about 4MW of nuclear, and that means the majority of electrical production will be coming from fossil fuels.

Can't wait to see those electric bills... maybe we'll be able to retire and move before that starts to hit.

(disclosure: longtime shareholder in ComEd which is now Exelon... but that doesn't give me a discount on my electricity...)
  by kitchin
Thanks. NG is cleaner than diesel, by emissions, and also taking into account transmission vs. fuel transportation, refining, etc., I suppose? Not sure about extraction though - effects on water, for example.

Way off-topic, but I notice a lot of fuel trucks going into the rail coal seaport where I am. Guess it doesn't travel by rail!

Closer to topic, Illinois has one of the top state coal reserves, and is an international exporter.
  by TurningOfTheWheel
Even if the batteries were charged by a massive diesel generator, it would still be marginally more efficient just based on thermodynamics. Internal combustion engines are horribly inefficient machines. Given an increasing share of wind and PV solar, or even a shift to natural gas, it would still represent a huge decrease in CO2 emissions overall. That's not even to mention the massive reduction in PM and NOx emissions in densely populated areas.
  by spRocket
I'm wondering if this is something that's intended to be paired with a diesel, so that dynamic braking could be turned into regenerative braking, like the BNSF/Wabtec experimental unit? If it's intended to run solo, how many trips could it run before needing a recharge? Solo, it might be something more suited for the Rock Island Beverly branch, for instance, than for Chicago-Joliet.

In other news, the BNSF/Wabtec battery-electric pilot program appears to be meeting expectations, with about an 11% reduction in fuel consumption in their tests. https://www.railwayage.com/mechanical/l ... ts-are-in/

ETA: On the Illinois energy front, a massive new natural gas generating station is being built in Elwood, just south of Joliet. https://jacksongeneration.com/
  by Arlington
The grid also varies by time of day, Recharging them midday on a sunny day and they may get lots of solar

Recharge overnight and it may still be mostly nuclear
  by Arborwayfan
Long-term trends are to cleaner electricity. I do wonder about the sustainability of batteries (both in the sense of environmental damage from making/disposing of them and in the sense of the long-term supplies of the materials with which to make them).

Shifting emissions is a benefit in itself, because it makes the station air and the city air at street level cleaner and potentially improves the health of many people in the city. Power plant emissions are often in thinly populated places and out the top of tall smokestacks.

Using battery-electric locomotives on trains coming into either side of Chicago Union Station would be good for air quality in the station. CUS isn't like Back Bay in Boston, but sometimes one gets a whiff of exhaust on the platforms. And, in any case, the exhaust that goes up through the roof vents ends up in the city above. Same for locomotives idling out in the yard or in any of the more open-air terminals.

Do traction motors last longer than prime movers, so that someone could basically take out the prime mover and the generators, replace with batteries up to the total axle-load weight limit, change the controls, and be ready to go, and have a locomotive that could last a long time? I don't know much about locomotives but I've heard of some classes of electric locomotives that ran a lot longer than the F40s have, like the CN Box Cabs in Montreal (76 years)
  by R36 Combine Coach
Arborwayfan wrote: Wed May 26, 2021 6:25 pm Do traction motors last longer than prime movers, so that someone could basically take out the prime mover and the generators, replace with batteries up to the total axle-load weight limit, change the controls, and be ready to go, and have a locomotive that could last a long time? I don't know much about locomotives but I've heard of some classes of electric locomotives that ran a lot longer than the F40s have, like the CN Box Cabs in Montreal (76 years)
MUs also have lasted a long time, especially the prewar (1st gen) electrics.
  by eolesen
Traction motors certainly have a lot fewer moving parts, lower heat and no plumbing to deal with... Replace brushes and bearings once in a while, and you're good to go.

The limitations around electric motive power has always been transmission. I'd be surprised to see if these can go for 150 miles (at least one trip out and back plus contingency). Using a similar weight to range ratio, the batteries on a Tesla Model 3 would power a 240K# locomotive for about 8 miles. The Model 3 battery pack weighs in at about 1000 lbs. Assuming an engine and generator plus fuel comes in around 60,000 lbs, replacing that with 60 Tesla 3 battery packs would provide a reasonable range, but what infrastructure would need to be in place to charge a massive array of battery packs at once without becoming a huge fire risk?.....

But you'll need more of these to cover a schedule than you do something that carries its own power plant....
Last edited by eolesen on Thu May 27, 2021 6:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by Marcop23
As mentioned, one big advantage with frequent stopping trains is that the braking energy may be regenerated.

Steel wheels on rails have very little friction, and the energy lost to overcome air resistance is not quite limited as well (especially at < 79 mph). That means that, in theory, there shouldn't be too much energy lost to move even very heavy trains. Of course, it takes a lot of power to get it going, but it shouldn't be lost. However, traditionally, it is all wasted as braking energy, either in the friction brakes or dynamic brake resistors.

DC catenary systems are often not 'receptive', meaning that they can't feed much energy back in the grid. It's only possible when another trains happens to accelerate near to it, which can consume the generated electricity.

With batteries, you should be able to regenerate and store most of the kinetic energy of the train. This means that you may need less energy than you would with a diesel engine. And on top, the energy is generated more efficiently (CO2 emmisions for a natural gas power plant: 0.91 lbs/kWh, petroleum 2.13 lbs/kWh), and no particulate matter to breathe in in dense urban areas. It's a definite win.

It wouldn't surprise me that, when technology ages and when using efficient AC motors, that more energy is going to be used for the HVAC systems for 10 cars on a summer day, than actual traction energy.
  by scratchyX1
I am wondering if the next gen of metra electric district will be EMU with battery, so they could extend range.
Of course, other metra districts could have same conversion, I assume the F40s could get a pantograph for operating in areas that the owner route would allow it.