Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First corn-powered train closer to reality
October 10, 2010

Corn-Powered Locomotive on Track in 2010
LANSING, MICH. – The Corn Marketing Program of Michigan (CMPM) strives to create partnerships with companies and other organizations for the betterment of Michigan’s corn industry. The CMPM has been working with AHL-TECH as they develop the world’s first cost-effective, ethanol-electric hybrid locomotive. “AHL-TECH has developed an ethanol-hybrid locomotive to capitalize on the growing ethanol market in the United States and to replace the railroad industry’s aging diesel-electric locomotive fleet,” said Tom Mack, president and CEO of AHL-TECH. The current diesel-electric locomotives that form the backbone of the railroad fleet range from 1,000 to 4,400 horsepower (hp). The diesel engines are connected to large generators that drive electric motors that are directly attached to the locomotive’s axles.

Much like diesel-electric locomotives, an ethanol-fueled engine powers a generator connected to the locomotive’s axles. However, unlike the diesel-electrics, AHL-TECH’s ethanol-hybrid also has a battery component. Instead of a direct correlation between the speed of the engine and the power transmitted by the generator, AHL-TECH’s design features the capacity to store electricity when the generator produces more power than is being used. This gives the locomotive the ability to power the axles by running the engine or using power stored in the main battery. It also allows for regenerative braking – capturing the energy lost when a locomotive is brought to a halt.

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