Recognizing that the rail sector generates 2% of US transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the Department of Energy (DOE) has released the Progression to Net-Zero Emission Propulsion Technologies for the Rail Sector request for information (RFI) to understand applicable decarbonization strategies (DE-FOA-0003186). The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, other stakeholders, and the public on issues related to alternative propulsion technology advancement within the rail sector and achieving net-zero GHG emissions.
In January 2023, DOE, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency released the US National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization, an interagency framework to eliminate emissions from the transportation sector—including rail—by 2050. This significant transition requires rail supply chain coordination, including alternative fuel production, feedstock supply, locomotive engine manufacturing, safety implementation, customer demand, and government regulation.
To develop a national strategy to decarbonize the rail sector, two critical questions must be addressed:
Which alternative rail propulsion technologies are most promising technically and economically?
What is the timeline for the rail sector to transition to net-zero emission technologies?
The net-zero emission propulsion technologies under consideration for the intent of this RFI for transitional, interim use until 2030 are: biodiesel, renewable diesel, ammonia, methanol, hydrogen fueled internal combustion engines, and ethanol.
The technologies under consideration for mid- to long-term use are: hydrogen fuel cells, batteries (tenders or built-in), direct electrification (catenary), or a combination of different technologies.
Jointly released by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), Vehicle Technologies Office, and Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, the RFI aims to collect knowledge from stakeholders to guide actions regarding future propulsion technologies, research and infrastructure investments, and coordination to ensure the rail sector is meeting or exceeding US decarbonization milestones.