This paper analyzes alternatives to carbon-based fuels, including ‘clean’ electric locomotive technology. Electrification of the North American railway network leaves many questions to be researched, such as: sufficient power capacity, ‘clean’ sources, distribution costs, infrastructure costs, logistics issues, legislative barriers, and resulting changes to business practises. A comprehensive review of incentives, logistics, and barriers was done to shed some light on emerging research needs to fill knowledge gaps in time to sustain industry competitiveness, and to meet the demands of a more sustainable future for North American freight, commuter, and tourism rail.
Given prohibitively high costs and logistics of rail electrification, North American researchers have started focusing on ultra-capacitors and batteries. Previous research suggests that a hybrid capacitor/battery equipped locomotive would work, all within the existing envelope of locomotive chassis, and with much lower infrastructure costs. The transition in NA would be faster, at a much lower cost, including high speed passenger rail. However, no one has yet done the necessary research to verify this hypothesis.