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GE to Introduce Hybrid Road Locomotive

GE will introduce a one-of-a-kind hybrid road locomotive tomorrow at Union Station in Los Angeles to demonstrate the progress that GE’s Transportation business is making in developing a freight hybrid locomotive that is capable of recycling thermal energy as stored power in on-board batteries.

The 4,400 hp Evolution Hybrid diesel-electric prototype will feature a series of innovative batteries that will capture and store energy dissipated during dynamic braking. The energy stored in the batteries will reduce fuel consumption and emissions by as much as 10% compared to most of the freight locomotives in use today. GE previewed the system at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Long Beach last week.

In addition to reduced emissions, a hybrid will operate more efficiently in higher altitudes and up steep inclines. Several GE customers including BNSF are helping to serve on GE’s advisory board for the development of hybrid technology.

Before the GE hybrid locomotive is offered commercially, the engineering team will continue work and analysis on the innovative lead-free rechargeable batteries and corresponding control systems on-board the locomotive. Following lab testing, GE will produce pre-production units for customer field validation purposes.



I wonder why they need a lead-free battery system? I believe one of the limitations with most locomotives is sheer traction with the rails. You can't build a loco heavy enough to make use of all the power you could put out, the wheels would spin. Filling the thing with lead batteries would seem to be helping out. I don't think there's a heavier battery technology. Perhaps it's a power density issue. Evironmentally issues would not seem to be a problem given that the batteries are suitably packaged and re-cycled at the end of their life.

I'm sure someone will let me know.


For small engines, like yard goats, more weight is a good thing. For full sized engines, more weight is a good thing only up to a certain point. The more weight that has to be carried by a single section of track, the more wear and tear occurs to the track bed, and the more track maintenance is required. The wear and tear goes up exponentially with weight.


What is a "road" locomotive ?
It sounds like a "rail" locomotive to me.
I checked the GE link and it said "road" as well, so I do not know.


Coal burner is right: there is a weight limit for locos. The current ones from GE and EMD close to it, though I think they have a lot of plate steel added to their frames in order to maximize their weight. All recent locos have also wheelspin control and sanders, and thus have pretty good adhesion by historical standards. My guess is that they really do need power density for weight and size reasons, and just because of the sheer amount of power that is involved. Going by the specs on GE's site it looks like an ES44AC can generate 2500HP worth of electricity during dynamic braking. Storage for all that juice is not trivial.

And that's why the exercise doesn't make too much sense to me. Most rail lines have long sections of up or down grades, and unless the batteries are absolutely enourmous, I would think their capacity would be filled or discharged early on any grade. Otherwise the hybrid system is capturing or discharging only a very small portion of the momentary power.

Maybe locos will be outfitted with tenders like in the old days, only this time they will be filled with vandium-oxide flow batteries instead of coal and water.


A "road locomotive" is a one used for hauling freight outside of rail yards, where originially a "switcher" was used. Many switchers these days are older, lower-powered road locos.

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