New technologies in innovative hybrid locomotives
2 SEPTEMBER / 2019
Igor Seleznev, Deputy General Director of Ctrl2GO GC, and Mikhail Rozhkov, Technical Director of Transmashholding JSC, gave an interview to Train and Brain magazine.
The moment has come

Mikhail Anatolyevich, the agreement signed at PMEF-2019 between Transmashholding JSC, Russian Railways JSC and Rosnano JSC on the creation of environmentally friendly shunting locomotives using a hybrid drive is being actively discussed in the professional community. Share the details, please.

Mikhail Rozhkov: We are planning to implement two pilot projects at once and create fundamentally new hybrid locomotives, the four-axis contact-battery electric locomotive EMKA2, and the two-axis hybrid locomotive TEM5X. Rosnano will supply traction batteries to the new rolling stock. I want to emphasize that our goal is not just to develop and produce a batch of locomotives for a specific order. With these projects, we are creating a new market segment, hybrid locomotives with modern energy storage, and, of course, we are planning to dominate this market.

Attempts to create hybrids have been undertaken by manufacturers before, but such locomotives are not yet widely distributed. Why should it happen now?

Mikhail Rozhkov: Technologies are constantly evolving, and what was technically impossible or economically inexpedient 5-10 years ago may be the best solution for our customers today. Battery electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular. Hybrid cars, electric buses are increasingly crowding traditional transport on the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other cities.

The reason for this trend is the rapid development of electric energy storage technologies (primarily lithium-ion batteries). Batteries fell in price by several times. Their safety, reliability, energy density, and other characteristics began to meet stringent requirements for use in transport. Based on our technical developments and economic calculations, we can confidently say that the time has come; for a number of tasks, hybrid locomotives based on modern solutions are becoming full competitors to traditional diesel locomotives. Moreover, according to our forecasts, the most promising machines are a light shunting hybrid diesel locomotive and a medium-capacity contact-battery shunting electric locomotive.

A fusion of ideas

- Igor Leonidovich, what are the main distinguishing features of TEM5X?

Igor Seleznev: This is a light biaxial shunting machine. Its design allows the use of batteries of a smaller capacity and a less powerful diesel engine than, for example, in mainline machines. The modular design provides new opportunities for locomotive maintenance. The very concept of modularity is different for us from previous approaches. The TMX concept will allow not only to change the locomotive configuration but also, if necessary, quickly change the faulty module.

A simple example: a hybrid locomotive can become a battery electric locomotive or a two-diesel locomotive due to quick module replacement if the customer considers it necessary. This opens up broad prospects for a particular operator and provides flexible fleet management.

How to choose a diesel?

Igor Seleznev: We have relied on a proven reliability diesel generator set with a capacity of only 200 kW. Without a hybrid scheme, the use of such a diesel engine on a locomotive would be problematic. However, due to the battery with the power that may complement the diesel power at a particular moment, we get the necessary traction characteristics at a higher level of environmental friendliness. Besides, the use of a lower power diesel is convenient for customers. Many enterprises have mastered the maintenance of such equipment at the fleet level.

Design of machines plays a significant role in the production of rolling stock today. What stylistic decisions have been implemented in the new hybrid?

Igor Seleznev: The new locomotive will be operated at railway stations, and this means work among a large number of people. Therefore, we decided to make the machine beautiful, in line with prevailing trends in industrial design. However, any design is always a compromise. In addition to aesthetics, the machine should meet stringent standards in the field of railway transport. In our case, a joint approach to design, a fusion of the ideas of those involved in design and those responsible for technical specifications and compliance with standards, allowed us to do something new. The implemented solutions not only meet modern aesthetic requirements but also ensure manufacturability of production and simplify the locomotive maintenance.
Looking for benefits

- What features and operational benefits will hybrids bring to their owners?

Mikhail Rozhkov: The presence of on-board batteries will save a significant amount of resources on the life cycle of the machine. According to preliminary estimates, TEM5X will reduce operational fuel consumption by 30% compared with diesel locomotives with a large number of axles. When operating a battery-powered electric locomotive EMKA2, this parameter is even higher. The machine is "fueled" with cheap electricity from the railway contact network through its standard current collector and does not require the cost of equipping with diesel fuel and oil. I would like to separately note that the "hearts" of both locomotives, traction batteries, will be built on a single element base, as much as possible unified up to interchangeability. In new models, digital solutions will be systemically integrated: predictive diagnostic systems, computer vision, and remote control.

Igor Seleznev: Many of these technologies are already being implemented in railway transport. But TMX will be the first to integrate these solutions into rolling stock designs systematically. I am sure that there are no such cars in the world yet and new hybrid locomotives are waiting for commercial success.

I want to draw your attention to the following: we use innovative solutions not because it is a trend but because we strive to meet the needs of consumers. For example, predictive analytics allows you to predict possible breakdowns of individual components and assemblies of a locomotive and plan its future maintenance. This significantly reduces the repair component of the life cycle cost, allowing you to switch to the service and repair system according to the locomotive's actual condition. In the future, we are planning to introduce remote control systems, collision avoidance, and unmanned control later on.

- How does it work?

Mikhail Rozhkov: Remote control gives the customer a possibility to control one or more locomotives from anywhere. Imagine that you are playing a computer game: the monitor displays all the information about the route, you set the car into motion, react to the changing environment around you - accelerate, slow down or stop. Then you can set a completely different locomotive into motion. All this without getting up. At the same time, the ability to simultaneously control several machines at once significantly from one point optimizes the time and labor costs during operation. The technological downtime of locomotives reduces: the transition from the cab of one locomotive to another requires only switching on the control panel.

Unmanned control involves a completely autonomous movement of the machine from point A to point B. This will require infrastructure that provides high-level scheduling. A specific set of systems analyzes whether the path is clear and gives a motion-enabling signal. At the same time, the locomotive itself does not drive "blindly": using computer vision and an obstacle recognition system, it observes the operational situation and can stop in case of emergency situations or, on the contrary, continue driving after removing obstacles.

- Creation of hybrids is apparently accompanied with implementation of new technologies in the process of designing machines, isn't it?

Igor Seleznev: Absolutely. Another innovation for TMX will be the creation of digital twins of locomotives under development. This is not just about digital design but also digital modeling of operating conditions. By playing specific scenarios in which the machine will have to work, we will be able to provide for the optimal configuration of its systems. The use of digital counterparts, coupled with predictive analytics elements, gives a significant synergistic effect. By specifying the operating conditions for each consumer, it is possible to configure the locomotive primarily from the point of view of using a hybrid power plant. This will allow for varying power, energy intensity, and, as a result, the cost of power plants. In fact, we are talking about the customization of machine production. Besides, modularity of the design will allow modernization of locomotives throughout the entire service life. If the battery capacity increases significantly in the future, it will be possible to completely abandon the use of a diesel engine without changing the locomotive design but only by replacing one module with another.

The battery can be used in such a way as to ensure the optimal mode of diesel engine operation or even refuse to start it if this is not necessary. It can give energy when the locomotive is parked and started, as well as connect at peak loads, allowing them to smooth out and reduce fuel consumption, especially in transition modes. When it is necessary to reduce emissions drastically, you can only move on the battery. Its working condition will be maintained due to an early charge from the energy of a diesel engine or an external source with the appropriate infrastructure. Plus, of course, recovery - when the energy generated by the engines during braking is returned to the battery.

- When is it planned to launch hybrids in series?

Mikhail Rozhkov: A tripartite agreement on the supply of shunting locomotives for passenger stations at megacities has already been signed. At the end of summer, we will present the TEM5X prototype at PRO/ Dvizhenie.Expo international salon in Shcherbinka. We are also planning to complete certification and mass production of the diesel locomotive in 2021, and the EMKA2 electric locomotive in 2022.