USA: The company has signed a corresponding cooperation agreement with the national laboratories from Oak Ridge and Argonne, as well as with the Convergent Science software developer. It is planned to create a control system for the engine allowing the usage of a hydrogen-diesel mixture.
Wabtec says that this technology will allow the production of locomotives with a new engine that provides low CO2 emissions, and an upgrade of existing locomotive fleets. The company also mentions plans to create dual-fuel engines working not only on hydrogen, but also on other types of environmentally friendly fuel.
The project cooperation is intended for 3 years and will be divided into several stages. First, a team from the Oak Ridge lab will prepare a blueprint for retrofitting the diesel engines on the current fleet of locomotives to dual-fuel ones. Then it plans to improve the engine control system together with Convergent Science and Wabtec to allow increasing the proportion of hydrogen or other fuel in the mix with diesel. The Argonne team will create a computer model of the combustion process in the engine to predict how it will perform as operating conditions change or additional components are installed.
A testing bench for the project has already been installed in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It will be monitored by specialists in engine construction and digital technologies. The project is financially supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE).
This is not Wabtec’s first project in the area of alternative fuel technologies. In 2020, the producer presented the project of the FLXdrive battery locomotive and has already received firm orders for about 20 such vehicles. The technology is also being offered for implementation in Kazakhstan. One year later Wabtec also signed a memorandum with General Motors to introduce hydrogen fuel cells into locomotives. GM plans to establish the production of such energy sources in the United States together with Honda.
Projects that intend the use of dual-fuel engines in locomotive traction were announced this year in Namibia and Australia. Thus, a consortium led by the Hyphen Technical investment fund presented the project for an African country to replace a traditional diesel engine in two locomotives of the TransNamib operator with an engine that will burn a hydrogen-diesel mixture. Also, Deutsche Bahn and Fortescue Future Industries, the green technologies company of Australian Fortescue Metals Group, signed a letter of intent to upgrade locomotive diesel engines to combust hydrogen and ammonia.