Great British Railfreight (GBRf) are in the process of trialling a new hybrid+ locomotive for shunting and yard operations, demonstrating yet another contribution by a freight operator to the nation’s net zero carbon targets.
Arriving at Whitemoor on Tuesday 1 February, the Class 18 is powered by an onboard 524kWh battery which can be charged from a mains supply or draw power from a Stage V compliant diesel engine (which also permits it the ability to continue running when posed with range or operational challenges). Commissioned by Beacon Rail and manufactured by Clayton Equipment Ltd with engines produced by JCB, the Class 18 constitutes a post-Brexit collaboration between an all-British conglomerate.
Clayton Equipment Ltd boasts 89 years of bespoke locomotive manufacturing in the United Kingdom, specialising in narrow-gauge traction for domestic use and export. Over the past decades, the Staffordshire -based company has progressively attempted to implement an array of technologies to meet emissions standards and demands from its rail and mining client base.
According to GBRf Asset Director David Golding, “The Class 18 hybrid+ shunting locomotive has the power to play a key role in the decarbonisation of our future fleet. Going forward, it will offer a wide range of sustainable benefits capable of significantly reducing the environmental impact of our operations.”
Related: The Railways and Britain’s Nuclear Industry (Britain’s Railways and Industry) (2020) (external link).
The introduction of the Class 18 enables low noise and zero emission shunting operations in private yards and depots, replacing older Class 08/09 models and marking a contribution by the company towards rail’s overall decarbonisation strategy.
For those unfamiliar with freight train terminology, shunting “refers to the setting up, storage, organising and separating as well as moving individual wagons or groups of vehicles” according to the ÖBB Rail Cargo Group.
Related: The Rail Freight Challenge for Emerging Economies: How to Regain Modal Share (2019) (external link).
Beacon spokesman Rob Dee cites the locomotive’s offer of “a greener and sustainable option for rail freight operations in the UK against the backdrop of targets to reduce emissions,”.
Utilising a regenerative brake system and three-phase electric supply, the Class 18 will make for a more cost effective and low-emission alternative to the existing diesel-electric fleet engaged in shunting duties across the network.
Related: The Economics and Politics of High Speed Rail: Lessons from Experiences Abroad (2012) (external link).
Across the Atlantic, a Californian company called Parallel Systems has announced plans to produce autonomous battery-electric rail vehicles, which would be designed to move freight cleaner, faster and more cost effectively than traditional trains or trucks.
To meet its objectives, the company, founded by a group of former SpaceX engineers, has raised over 53 million USD (39m GBP, 46m EUR) to date.
According to Matt Soule, Co-founder and CEO, “We founded Parallel to allow railroads to open new markets, increase infrastructure utilization, and improve service to accelerate freight decarbonization, […] our business model is to give railroads the tools to convert some of the $700 billion U.S. trucking industry to rail. The Parallel system can also help alleviate the supply chain crisis by enabling low cost and regular movement of freight in and out of ports.