New GE 'cruise control' for trains helps railroads sip fuel

Much like cruise control for cars, GE's new technology can calculate the speed at which a locomotive will save the most fuel.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

GE's Transportation division on Wednesday announced new technology that calculates the optimal speed at which a locomotive can save the most fuel.

The company says that translates to a fuel savings of 3.3 million gallons on the first five million miles of track.

The software is called "Trip Optimizer," and falls under the company's "Ecomagination" campaign. Here's how it works: based on a specific train's makeup and route, the software calculates the optimal speed profile for a trip --- and then automatically controls the throttle to maintain that speed.

The software operates in two modes: "automatic," which maintains speed, or "advisement," which informs the operator which throttle and braking levels will achieve optimal fuel efficiency and speed.

Already, four major North American Class 1 railroads have outfitted their locomotives with Trip Optimizer. The result? A fuel savings of approximately 7 percent, according to GE, which is the equivalent of more than 37,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions (or the carbon footprint of more than 7,000 passenger cars).

"Trip Optimizer generates fuel savings ranging from 3 percent to 15 percent per locomotive, depending on territory as measured by North American train operators," said Pierre Comte, president of GE Transportation Intelligent Control Systems, in a statement. "It is a significant element in the future of fuel conservation with the added benefit of reducing emissions for railroads around the world.”

It's also the latest example of how lucrative GE's software and solutions services group really is, grossing some $4 billion a year for the Fairfield, Conn.-based conglomerate.

Moreover, it shows that there's money to be made in transportation efficiencies. Trip Advisor joins GE's existing Locotrol and RailEdge products, the former which boosts hauling capacity via distributed power and the latter which optimizes movement across existing rail networks.

Photo: GE/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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