Report identifies technologies for improved rail diesel efficiency

Report identifies technologies for improved rail diesel efficiency
Engineering consultancy Ricardo has issued a report on behalf of the UK Department for Transport, exploring the means by which improvements in diesel fuel efficiency could be realised within the country's rail network.

The study reviews existing diesel traction technologies in use on the railway and assesses the levels of efficiency currently achieved in comparison with state of the art diesel powertrain system efficiencies in other sectors, such as commercial vehicles and off-highway equipment.

As well as calling for a high level of collaboration between industry organisations, it recommends fitting the latest gas-exchange turbocharger systems to current passenger trains and stop-start technology for freight. Ricardo says the gas exchange system could result in diesel fuel savings of up to £53million per year.

"The results of this research have highlighted a range of practical technology packages that can be readily implemented in order to improve the operational fuel efficiency of diesel rolling stock," said Ricardo director of rail vehicle technology, Jim Buchanan. "There are a number of technology packages applicable to new vehicles, as well as for retrofitting to existing fleets, some of which offer the prospect of very tangible fuel consumption savings as well as commercial returns."

In order to evaluate the potential costs and fuel consumption benefits of applying new technologies both to the existing fleet as well as to new vehicles, Ricardo evaluated the effects of engine enhancements, parasitic loss reduction measures, waste heat recovery innovations, transmission and driveline system improvements, energy storage technologies and various hybridisation measures.

These were grouped into practical 'technology packages' for each vehicle type, in order for their respective costs, benefits and investment payback periods to be calculated.

The report and its recommendations are now in the process of being shared with a range of industry stakeholders, including rolling stock leasing companies, train operating companies, fleet maintenance and overhaul firms and rail freight operators.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport concluded: "We have been extremely encouraged by the results and recommendations of this study. The rail industry has made significant improvements in fuel consumption at an operational level in recent years, but this report highlights further technology-led initiatives that could also be considered with the aim of reducing fuel costs as well as delivering environmental benefits in terms of reduced fuel consumption and carbon emissions."

The full report can be downloaded below.

Laura Hopperton

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