NEMA Launches Rail Electrification Council

NEMA Launches Rail Electrification Council

This piece was originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of electroindustry.

Steve Griffith, Industry Director, NEMA

About a quarter of worldwide railroad systems are electric. In the United States, it’s less than 1 percent.

Most analysts agree that long-haul transportation is more efficient and less expensive by train than by truck. The physics of steel rolling on steel is much more effective from an energy transfer perspective than that of rubber on concrete. Trains are also more efficient aerodynamically than trucks. A cleaner, more robust electrified railroad system could replace substantial amounts of truck traffic, easing congestion and pollution.

Retooling the operations of the domestic and North American rail system entails major reinvestment and manufacturing opportunities. Rail electrification is likely to involve the need for Standards in both the rail and utility industries, as well as supportive government policies at the State and Federal levels.

Recognizing this opportunity, NEMA has officially launched the Rail Electrification Council as the governing body for its ongoing rail electrification activity. The Council is open to all NEMA Members, as well as non-Members active in the  rail sector.

NEMA Members’ products and systems are building an electrified rail infrastructure that:

  • Uses either electric locomotives (hauling passengers or freight in separate cars) or electric multiple units (passenger cars with their own motors) as a primary mode of transport
  • Includes options for locomotives powered by batteries as well as hydrogen fuel cells
  • Generates its electricity from large and relatively efficient power stations that is then transmitted to the railway network and then distributed to the trains
  • Supplies electric power to railway trains and trams without an on-board prime mover or local fuel supply via a continuous conductor running along the track that can be either an overhead line or a third rail
  • Provides better energy efficiency, lower emissions, and lower total operating costs than diesel alternatives

The NEMA Rail Electrification Council will focus on the following activities in 2020:

  • Developing a business case analysis to convey the value of rail electrification
  • Conducting a technology assessment to identify Standards gaps
  • Promoting rail electrification through a targeted communications campaign, informed by the business case analysis
  • Convening a coalition of aligned stakeholders to extend our influence

For more information about the Rail Electrification Council and its planned 2020 activities, email Steve Griffith, Industry Director, NEMA Transportation Systems Division, at steve.griffith@nema.org. ei

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