Alter the profile of the wheel or its mechanical properties, but only if it can be done
without compromising car wheel life and wear or fatigue of the railhead. There are
about 500 times more freight cars in North America than AC-traction locomotives. In
addition, replacing rails incurs huge capital costs and expensive service delays.
Apply chemicals that increase the coefficient of friction between the wheel and the
Improve computer controls of locomotive engines.
Clean the railhead to remove water and organics.
Concerns about diesel engines in locomotives are similar to those for heavy-duty trucks.
Reliability and durability are of paramount importance because road failures can be extremely
expensive in terms of loss of revenue. Research objectives related to reliability and durability
include improved additive packages for engine oils, improved filtration or treatment schemes for
engine oils, and improved wear resistance of parts.
Locomotive manufacturers view fuel efficiency and emissions as issues with national impact.
Although the number of locomotives produced per year is too low to independently bear the cost
of a large R&D program, the problems faced by locomotive manufacturers are virtually the same
as those faced by truck and diesel-engine manufacturers. A DOE program with industrial
consortia could have huge benefits, not only for heavy-duty vehicles and trains, but for a broad
cross section of U.S. industry for which friction and wear cost billions of dollars every year.
Other nations, such as Japan, have taken up these issues as national projects, and we are in
danger of becoming totally dependent on foreign sources in the future.
As with heavy-duty trucks, emission-control technologies will require improved lubricants to
handle the increased soot loading from EGR and the formation of sulfuric acid.
Reliability and durability of components in the engine fuel system are vitally important for
environmental reasons and for maintaining fuel efficiency. Very small amounts of wear in the
orifices and valves of the fuel system can cause very large declines in the performance of the
system. Cleaner diesel fuels and alternative fuels are expected to have much lower lubricity than
do current diesel fuels. Low-friction, wear-resistant coatings for components of the fuel system
or additives to the fuel probably will be needed to prevent premature failures.
Reducing friction in the axle bearings through improved seal designs or other means will not
only increase fuel efficiency, but will help to prevent derailments due to damaged bearings.