Comparative analysis of alternative powertrain technologies in freight trains: A numerical examination towards sustainable rail transport

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

This study assesses the energy efficiency and environmental implications of six powertrain technologies in the U.S. freight rail network: diesel, biodiesel, diesel-hybrid, biodiesel-hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell, and electric. Utilizing a simulation model, energy consumption at the tank across different demand scenarios and geographical regions is conducted. The study revealed electric powertrains as the standout, slashing energy consumption at the tank by 56% compared to traditional diesel, with the potential for zero CO2 emissions when powered by green energy sources. Biodiesel and biodiesel-hybrid also outperformed conventional diesel, cutting CO2 tank emissions by 6% and 21%, respectively. Diesel-hybrid registered a 16% reduction in both tank energy and diesel consumption, while hydrogen fuel cells demonstrated a 15% energy consumption drop at the tank and zero emissions. Implementing these advanced technologies requires considerable infrastructure investment and adaptation, which is beyond the scope of our analysis. While centered on the U.S. rail network, our findings offer valuable insights for global freight rail systems, underpinning the push for sustainable powertrain transitions.

NeTrainSim, Powertrain technologies, Energy efficiency, Numerical simulation comparison