Advanced Locomotive Propulsion System

The Advanced Locomotive Propulsion System (ALPS) Program was established at CEM-UT in 1996 with sponsorship from the Federal Railroad Administration, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and various cost sharing industrial and State organizations. The objective of the program is briefly summarized as follows. . .

Develop and demonstrate the technologies required for an advanced passenger rail fossil-fueled locomotive propulsion system with the following advantages:

  • Up to 150 mph operation on existing rail infrastructure.
  • Outstanding acceleration capability – comparable to electric locomotives.
  • Fuel efficient with low noise and air emissions – capable of meeting projected 2005 standards
  • Avoid or defer $3,000,000 to $5,000,000 per mile rail infrastructure electrification cost, saving up to $1B per future high speed corridor

Once developed, the ALPS technologies is intended to enable the cost-effective formation of new high-speed rail corridors throughout the United States. The technology is scheduled to be available to support the newly designated Empire, Gulf Coast, Southeast and Keystone high-speed corridors, as well as existing high-speed corridors.

The Technology
The ALPS concept employs a high power turbo-alternator to overcome rolling resistance and maintain 150 mph cruising speed and a flywheel energy storage system for rapid acceleration, speed maintenance on grades, and recovery of braking energy. Power is provided from both ALPS components to the locomotive electric traction motors through a conventional DC link. The boost power available for acceleration will allow future high speed passenger trains to rapidly get on and off freight rail lines. Only minor track upgrades are required, although grade crossing safety improvements will also be needed to implement high speed operation on most corridors. Technologies being developed in the ALPS Program are also relevant to:

Hybrid-electric vehicles including freight and commuter locomotives, transit buses and automobiles.

Energy storage and power generation for space, and military applications, including high power weapon systems and space craft launch assist.

Electric utility applications including un-interruptible power supplies, power quality and load equalization.

The Development Team
The ALPS Team is lead by the FRA and CEM-UT, which serves as prime contractor responsible for the program. The program goal is to demonstrate this technology in a commercial locomotive prototype which cost-effectively serves the needs of diverse passenger rail corridors across the country. In support of this goal, CEM-UT has assembled the following team members shown with their respective lead responsibilities:

  • Center for Electromechanics: Flywheel and Alternator Development, Program Management
  • Honeywell International: Turbine Engine and High-Speed Alternator Development
  • Seneca Group: Market Assessments, Performance Requirements, Demonstration Planning
  • Association of American Railroads: Equipment Testing and Train Performance Modeling
  • Argonne National Laboratory: Flywheel Safety Analysis and Design
  • Naval Business Center, Philadelphia PA: Turbine and Alternator Testing

Project Accomplishments and Status
The ALPS project is a joint Government/Industry development effort, with significant funding provided by the industrial participants. Since beginning the program in 1996, a combined $15M has been invested in the project. In late 1998, the FRA began another collaborative program with Bombardier Transportation to develop a turbine powered locomotive which is to be compatible with the ALPS developed flywheel and turbo-alternator. Demonstration of the ALPS prototype hardware in the Bombardier locomotive is planned for FY02, with preliminary laboratory testing scheduled for FY01.

Since its initiation, significant progress toward the program goals has been achieved. Testing of the full-scale hardware is scheduled to begin in FY2001. To date, major program accomplishments include:

Fiscal Year Activity and Result

    1995 - System trade studies used to optimize flywheel energy and power requirements and alternator performance characteristics

    1996 - Subscale component development and testing completed to validate the design approach

    1997 - Design of full-scale flywheel and turbo-alternator completed, and orders for long lead materials placed

    1998 - ALPS system design adapted to Bombardier Locomotive

    - Fabrication of prototype ALPS flywheel and alternator initiated

    1999 - Fabrication of prototype ALPS flywheel and alternator initiated

    2000 - Completed alternator fabrication and assembly and continued construction of the ALPS flywheel

    2001 - No-load and full load testing of the alternator

For additional information, please contact:
Mr. John Herbst or Mr. Alan Walls, Co-Principal Investigators