Economic, environmental and grid-resilience benefits of converting diesel trains to battery-electric
Nearly all US locomotives are propelled by diesel-electric drives, which emit 35 million tonnes of CO2 and produce air pollution causing about 1,000 premature deaths annually, accounting for approximately US$6.5 billion in annual health damage costs. Improved battery technology plus access to cheap renewable electricity open the possibility of battery-electric rail. Here we show that a 241-km range can be achieved using a single standard boxcar equipped with a 14-MWh battery and inverter, while consuming half the energy consumed by diesel trains. At near-future battery prices, battery-electric trains can achieve parity with diesel-electric trains if environmental costs are included or if rail companies can access wholesale electricity prices and achieve 40% use of fast-charging infrastructure. Accounting for reduced criteria air pollutants and CO2 emissions, switching to battery-electric propulsion would save the US freight rail sector US$94 billion over 20 years.