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GO Transit Electrification (Metrolinx, Proposed)

mdrejhon

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UPDATE: Just want to announce I have created a new thread about battery train economics.

I have hugely mixed feelings about hydrogen. Pretty huge. But I have very good feelings about the future of battery EMUs

Lack of hydrogen infrastructure versus maturity of the invention of controlled electricity (1700s).

- Battery trains are typically just standard mature EMUs with the addition of batteries (and necessary related electronics).
- Ability to do inflight refueling (recharging while in motion under standard OCS catenary)
- Battery trains double as regular EMUs under catenary infrastructure
- Surprise cost falls in lithium batteries ($1100/kwh in 2010, now $139/kwh in 2019, and will be $62/kwh in 2030). A 18mm x 65mm lithium battery is now cheaper than a Duracell Alkaline AA!
- Relative maturity of battery technology (even battery powered trains and cars have been invented over 100 years ago, just weren't powerful enough)
- Standard catenary means we proceed with a standard electrification and mostly standard EMU fleet
- RER Phase 1 means more than 75% catenary for gentle charging, this is good for battery durability (multimillion mile batteries) for battery train extensions beyond base footprint.

Lithium battery costs have been falling in a very stunning way, to the point where Eglinton Crosstown cancelled a gasplant (without a scandal!) and are adding lithium battery backup to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Such a mid-construction change of heart. My view is RER Phase 1 is 100% standard catenary as currently planned, but a hypothetical RER Phase 2 spending (2030s) can involve battery trains to electrify Hamilton, Brampton, Bowmanville, etc, long before freight lines lets Metrolinx construct electrification adjacent to freight track (later in future due to climate change legislation).

We don't *have* to decide on battery trains for Phase 1 of GO electrification but are fantastic to re-evaluate once we are ready for Phase 2.
 
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ssiguy2

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Like I said, battery {although I think with only limited stretches/locations of catenary} is ideal for RER, expecting CN/CP to voluntarily electrify more than 3 meters of catenary is a non-starter. It will NEVER happen as any mandate from Ottawa to decarbonize our freight network will have to be hydrogen based.

There is a reason why hydrogen freight, air, transport, cargo, ferries are being quickly developed and deployed...…….it is not only the best option but far more importantly, it is the ONLY option.
 

mdrejhon

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An electrical distribution system that consisted of multiple discontinuous sections of catenary would be much more complex, and harder to operate, than a continuous one. More feed points, more complex load balancing, and would likely require continuous feeders strung the length of the route anyways, to preserve redundancy in supply points and to balance load.
This be true, however, the bulk of 3 kilovolt to 25 kilovolt equipment is getting much more compact than it used to be 30 years ago. For a short section of catenary, all the necessary equipment to keep a catenary live, now can fits in a single suburban lot, if it is not powering many trains. It's not a power-hogging high speed train we need to power.

In fact, the equipment for single-station catenary is compact enough to fit in one freight container now with modern engineering already trailblazed by the equipment provided to grid battery farms, etc.

The minaturization of high voltage equipment (at least at the 25kV scale and below) has been nothing short of astounding. Jaw dropping.

Here's an example. The ionic wind airplane uses 40,000 volts at 600 watts, in an experimental airplane that weighs only 2.45 kilograms. It's nothing short of miraculous. We used to need heavy transformers for this voltage at this power output. While the voltage boosting tech needed is different for 25kV catenary, it's being miniaturized (to a point -- as far as arcing distances and insulator technology permits).

Elsewhere in the world, there's reports of starting to plan single-station catenary for battery trains now. It's rapidly reaching cost-effectiveness. A station-only catenary only needs to recharge one or two train at a time, after all, and doesn't need to be synchronized to the other catenary elsewhere... Miniaturized lightweight 3kV thru 25kV power supplies are continually under development. They may not power a whole high speed train network but would be cheaply perfectly fine for short sections of catenary.

Also, in Europe, some EMUs supports multiple voltages (and I hear universal high voltage power supplies with a voltage range are currently being worked on -- a train equivalent of a tiny 90-260VAC universal power supply replacing a large transformer). A legacy of a train's need to run on multiple systems in Europe. Given such flex-voltage (2 or more voltages), a single-station catenary may run at just a few kilovolts, within the range of the battery train -- since shorter wires don't need as high voltages to deliver current long distances. These lower voltages involved can further miniaturize a feed into something more resembling a parking-lot cashier stand rather than a freight container, if it only needs to charge 1 or 2 battery trains at one station. Sufficient increase in amperage can run over short distances like that, to have the same charging speed as higher voltage catenary.

(P.S. I earned 99% in Grade 10 electronics -- work with circuits attached to Arduinos nowadays including voltage boosters/converters -- so I'm always paying attention to electronics breakthroughs -- some of what is being done is rather stunning at the industrial-scale equivalent of what I'm already doing).

For a catenary that only needs to run/charge only one or few non-high-speed trains at a time, the engineering can be far less complicated than a long section that draws the power hog leagues of a 300kph trains.
 
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Rainforest

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I am getting sold on the battery option (for RER). More accurately, on the catenary / battery hybrid with battery operations playing a prominent role.

Technical challenges remain, but the fundamental compatibility is there. It is possible to have Union corridor on catenary, and some of the lines entirely on catenary, while other lines will be mostly on battery with catenary at charging points or sections. It is possible to begin electric service on a particular line using battery, then upgrade to catenary once the conditions are right.

In contrast, any on-scale acceptance of hydrail would delay the catenary indefinitely. Hydrail by itself requires significant infrastructure. Possibly, Metrolinx could buy commercial hydrogen and wouldn't need to build its own hydrogen plants. Still, that hydrogen needs to be transported, then stored at the charging stations in a safe manner, and then loaded onto the train. Hydrogen must be kept at high pressure (or the required volume would be insane), that means loading would be quite a bit more complex than pouring gasoline or water into a tank. If Metrolinx invests in the infrastructure required for hydrail, no way it would simultaneously invest in catenary.
 

Rainforest

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De-carbonizing the long-range freight rail operations is another matter. Maybe, hydrail will be the way to go, but for that to make sense, the commercial energy balance must change big time. At present, nearly all commercial hydrogen is produced from the natural gas, and thus contributes to the carbon dioxide pollution. Therefore, long-distance hydrail might not even be any "greener" than diesel, today (but would become "greener" if hydrogen is produced using alternative energy).
 

crs1026

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Elsewhere in the world, there's reports of starting to plan single-station catenary for battery trains now. It's rapidly reaching cost-effectiveness. A station-only catenary only needs to recharge one or two train at a time, after all, and doesn't need to be synchronized to the other catenary elsewhere... Miniaturized lightweight 3kV thru 25kV power supplies are continually under development. They may not power a whole high speed train network but would be cheaply perfectly fine for short sections of catenary.
Perhaps the technology is getting better, but cost is not abstract. ML and Hydro One have worked out the best points to feed GO lines, taking into consideration a) where our transmission system already exists and b) assuming the line will be fed lengthwise by building feeders down the ROW. If we decide that instead, we want delivery to micro-feed points located at layover points, how much have we changed the plan? How easy is it to connect the grid with these points, and what kind of urban/residential impacts will that create? How many miles of new feeders will be needed, and where will they run? I’m not sure that doing that lessens the required capacity either - charging one or two trains at a time for a 30 mile run, versus feeding the same trains over the length of the line, is a similar amount of electrical energy.

I share the point of view that says carbon is a crisis and we need to pick up the pace - but - decisions should not be reached in a panic. Or without facts. Diesel rail transit is already pretty low-carbon relative to the options. Putting 1,000 commuters on a diesel train is far better carbon-wise than 1,000 automobiles. Electrifying the drayage trucks that deliver containers from Vaughan and BIT to the end customer might reduce more carbon than hauling the same container by electric rail instead of diesel - all the way from a Pacific port to Toronto.

Is rail electrification low-hanging fruit (If so, great)? Or is it a marginal improvement while more carbon can be eliminated in other processes? (In that case, this whole debate is a distraction from where we should put our energies). Let’s not get lost in the forest chasing the trees. The electrification advantage in ML’s case comes from improved acceleration and therefore improved schedules and more new station stops and therefore fewer cars on the roads. (That may actually imply more peak energy use per train, albeit offset by regen). Let’s keep our eye on that ball.

- Paul
 
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mdrejhon

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Yes, eyes on the ball since this may be Phase 2 stuff.

But I should point out there may only need to be 1 isolated segment.

Minimums for battery train usefulness:
Hamilton: None, it’s at the end of Phase 1 catenary stretch (Burlington)
Bowmanville: None, it’s at the end of Phase 1 catenary stretch (Bowmanville)
Kitchener: Only one, and the existing Metrolinx design is already standalone-capable.

For Lewis Yard, it is off CN property and can just be chargers not too dissimilar from Tesla Megachargers (truck chargers) that cheaply injects DC into railyard catenary instead of the 25kV elsewhere. It’s not like the battery units always require only traction AC. Or even a connect-yourself: Tesla has invented a safe connector that you connect yourself that can transmit a megawatt of power. While it won’t quick-charge a large EMU consist like quick-charging a Tesla Truck, it is certainly enough to charge a passenger battery train-set overnight.

Note - BNSF is going to test a battery freight train in a few months, using a General Electric battery locomotive that can couple into an existing diesel consist, to reduce fuel use by 15%. Posted a new post about that in the other thread. These need chargers too.
 
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crs1026

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^In a perfect world the layover charging would run from the same supply that is used for overnight HEP and diesel block heating..... amperage rating permitting.

That overnight charging strikes me as the most promising place to start. We know how much charge a battery holds and can discharge once...the speedy recharge/discharge cycling bit is still being perfected. It’s beyond 2.0 but it will be better in a few more years.

- Paul
 

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