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Assessment and Recommendations for a Fossil Free Future for Track Work Machinery


Current railway track work machinery is mainly operated with diesel fuel. As a result, track maintenance of Austrian Federal Railways (OeBB) amounts to nearly 9000 t CO2 equivalent per year according to calculations from Graz University of Technology. OeBB’s total length of railway lines only accounts for 0.56% of the world’s length of lines. This indicates huge potential for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions considering the need for track maintenance worldwide. Environmental concerns have led to the introduction of alternative drives in the transport sector. Until now, R&D (Research & Development) of alternative propulsion technologies for track work machinery has been widely neglected. This paper examines the possibility of achieving zero direct emissions during maintenance and construction work in railways by switching to alternative drives. The goal is to analyze alternative propulsion solutions arising from the transport sector and to assess their applicability to track work machinery. Research results, together with a calculation tool, show that available battery technology is recommendable for energy demands lower than 300 kWh per construction shift. Hydrogen fuel cell technology is an alternative for energy demands higher than 800 kWh. For machinery with energy requirements in between, enhancements in battery technology are necessary and desirable for the coming years.

Funding source: Open Access Funding by the Graz University of Technology.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Austria

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