Progression to Net-Zero Emission Propulsion Technologies for the Rail Sector
The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization set the goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the transportation sector – including rail – by 2050. This transformation to net-zero emission technologies requires coordination among all aspects of the rail supply chain, including feedstock supply, alternative fuel production, locomotive engine manufacturers, safety implementation, customer demand, and government regulation.
To develop a national strategy to decarbonize the rail sector, two critical questions must be addressed:
Which alternative rail propulsion technologies are most promising technically and economically?
What is the timeline for the rail sector to transition to net-zero emission technologies?
The purpose of this RFI is to understand what is driving the rail sector towards adopting alternative propulsion technologies, which technologies seem most promising, and what are the key barriers to achieving the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050. The propulsion technologies under consideration for this RFI for transitional, interim use until 2030 are: biodiesel, renewable diesel, ammonia, methanol, hydrogen fueled internal combustion engines, and ethanol. The net-zero emission technologies under consideration for this RFI for mid- to long-term use are: hydrogen fuel cells, batteries (tenders or built-in), and direct electrification (catenary), or a combination of different technologies. Each alternative propulsion technology comes with its own set of regionally sensitive advantages and disadvantages. This RFI is an attempt to aggregate knowledge from stakeholders to help guide actions regarding future propulsion technologies, research and infrastructure investments, and coordination among key stakeholders to ensure that the rail sector is meeting or exceeding U.S. decarbonization milestones.
January 12, 2024
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