Locomotive Tech moving towards Cheaper Storage Solutions: GE Transportation CEO

New locos will have AC cabins, washrooms for drivers

NEW DELHI: As India looks to arrive at the right pace of electrifying its railway network, Nalin Jain, President and CEO, International, GE Transportation, said that he feels the right mix is a ‘reasonable’ mix of diesel and electric, although it is for each country to decide its path.

The locomotive technology is moving towards cheaper energy storage solutions, use of LNG and more digitisation, Jain said, adding that these are the areas of innovation that GE is working on to help its rail customers deal with higher diesel prices.

As the battery gets better with lower cost and energy intensity improves, there will be a point in the next five to seven years when the battery becomes economically and technically feasible to be used in a locomotive. He, however, pointed out that from a longer term perspective, oil prices have gone down from $120 per barrel to $60 levels.

“At that point of time, you will switch from pure diesel to hybrid locomotive — there will be a smaller diesel engine, which will charge the battery, and battery becomes the source of power,” Jain told.

The other technology GE already has is based on LNG. “As diesel prices go up, you could run locomotives on LNG. The world has excess of LNG, and LNG prices are going down by the day. That’s another innovation,” he noted.

Going digital

Besides hybrid and LNG, Jain said that locomotives are getting digital, almost like moving computers. GE is making a lot of initiatives in digital space.

“For instance, Roza, Uttar Pradesh, will have India’s first remotely monitored diagnostic centre. This will allow real time, sensors from locomotives to feed in data into maintenance centre at Roza,” he added . So, as a problem gets diagnosed, even if a locomotive is far away, people at Roza, using iPads, will be placing the requisite work orders to fix the locomotive before it gets worse, Jain said.

Cooler workplace

The drivers or loco pilots of the Indian Railways will also get a better work space as they will get washrooms, and the locomotives will be air-conditioned. The two engines that GE will hand over this week are likely to be used in the Northern Railways network initially for hauling freight.

What the Indian Railways is getting is a 2005 technology that was introduced in the US. This is the first time that India is getting an engine that meets the international emission standards (UIC-1).

“We expect these locomotives, to be 6-7 per cent fuel efficient than the high power engines of Indian Railways run, everything else being the same,” he said.

Refuting rumours about cancellation of the contract, he says that this government is committed to do what they say.

“The country will continue to debate pros and cons of electrification. As a global company, we are doing business with multiple countries. Every country has determined, where and what they want to do. India is trying to figure that out. The right mix to my mind are a good mix of diesel and electric,” he added.