Tuesday, July 02, 2002
It is always interesting to write a story about the "Davids and Goliaths" in any field. The locomotive industry giants in the Americas' include General Motors Corporation and General Electric Company and then for good measure rebuilders such as Alstom and Wabtec Corporation are in the fray as well. This doesn't leave too much room for the upstarts who try to introduce something new and better, something innovative and less costly, something less polluting and cheaper to maintain. However, with flexible manufacturing competitiveness, using contract building by many competent contractors with excess capacity in the United States, Canada and Mexico, the right mixture can produce a new positive upstart to this growing industry. It is a known fact that when more competition is introduced, new products, better prices and better quality, will automatically appear.
Most switching locomotives in North America were built at least 30 to 40 years ago. Some are older road locomotives that have migrated into switching service as they are replaced by newer and more powerful power. While many have been rebuilt or modified during their lifetime, nothing new and innovative has transpired, like the carburator in your automobile. Economic conditions are driving railways, just like in other industries, to search for new efficiencies as far as production of greenhouse gasses and solid particulate air pollution are concerned.
Enter RailPower Technologies Corporation, with their "Green Goat" and "Green Kid." This Vancouver, BC, company has found an ingenious way of increasing diesel locomotive efficiency - considerably. These hybrid switchers have their electric traction motors on their axles that are powered by a large bank of custom-designed lead acid batteries. A low maintenance microturbine engine keeps the batteries automatically charged at all times, offering a 15% to 45% reduction in fuel costs during yard switching work while being much quieter and producing 80% to 90% less NOx than the standard units in operation. This technology is similar to that used in hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius.
The Green Goat's appearance also sets it apart as the short and long hood have been chopped from a conventional GP9 frame giving excellent visibility in all directions. The majority of space used up under the long hood are the batteries with the prime mover and mini-generator using up only a small portion. The completely functional 2,000 HP switching locomotive is given its great traction from the heavy batteries.
With plenty of spare battery capacity and the batteries heating up in normal operation, cold weather is not a problem, making the Green Goat able to respond instantly to the operators commands. The low long hood offering great visibility through heated glass from a cab that offers heating and air conditioning are also positive features for the operator. The time between overhauls are greatly decreased and at less cost. Initial indications show that compared to the diesel-electric equivalent, the Green Goat is 1/3 to 1/2 cheaper to purchase, is also cheaper to run, cheaper to maintain, is much quieter, and produces considerably less pollutants. In short, much more efficient in every aspect!
The Green Kid is a less powerful version of the Green Goat for those jobs where such massive power is not necessary. Sometimes "simple" is better! With a large unit to take care of the heavy loads and a smaller unit to take care of the lighter loads, and both "goats" being ahead of the game of all present switchers in use today, I would think that the smart businessmen of our rail companies will take a good hard look at this newcomer that could just revolutionize this whole playing field.
Contact information is at www.RailPower.com, (604) 687-8470.
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