Based on projected freight truck fuel efficiency, freight railroad and equipment suppliers need to identify, evaluate and implement technologies and/or operating practices to maintain traditional railroad economic competitiveness. The railway industry uses systems that record the total energy efficiency of a train but not energy efficiency or consumption by components. Lowering the energy consumption of certain train components will result in an increase in its overall energy efficiency, which will yield cost benefits for all the stakeholders. One component of interest is the railroad bearing whose power consumption varies depending on several factors that include railcar load, train speed, condition of bearing whether it is healthy or defective, and type of defect. Being able to quantify the bearing power consumption, as a function of the variables mentioned earlier, would make it possible to obtain optimal operating condition ranges that minimize energy consumption and maximize train energy efficiency.
Several theoretical studies were performed to estimate the power consumption within railroad bearings, but those studies lacked experimental validation. For almost a decade now, the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety (UTCRS) at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) has been collecting power consumption data for railroad bearings under various loads, speeds, ambient temperatures, and bearing condition. The objective of this ongoing study is to use the experimentally acquired power consumption to come up with a correlation that can be used to quantify the bearing power consumption as a function of load, speed, ambient temperature, and bearing condition. Once obtained, the model can then be used to determine optimal operating practices that maximize the railroad bearing energy efficiency. In addition, the developed model will provide insight into possible areas of improvement for the next generation of energy efficient railroad bearings. This paper will discuss ongoing work including experimental setup and findings of energy consumption of bearings as function of railcar load, train speed, condition of bearing whether it is healthy or defective, and type of defect. Findings of energy consumption are converted into approximations of diesel gallons to quantify the effect of nominal energy consumption of the bearings and show economic value and environmental impact.