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LOwering CO2: Models to Optimize Train Infrastructure, Vehicles, and Energy Storage

BY: Northwestern University Transportation Center and Argonne National Laboratory
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Hani S. Mahmassani, Pablo Durango-Cohen, Amgad Elgowainy (ANL), Yan (Joann) Zhou (ANL)

The transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the US, with the freight sector showing the greatest challenge to decarbonize. However, recent advances in lower-carbon fuels, battery technologies, and hydrogen fuels have provided viable alternatives to diesel for the traditionally hard-to-decarbonize freight rail industry.

Researchers at Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory have developed an analytical framework to aid railroads in planning the deployment of alternative locomotive energy technologies across their networks to decarbonize their operations. To make the analysis accessible, a flexible industry-oriented tool has been created that caters to individual user needs and provides insights with respect to costs, emissions, and operational performance metrics for the evaluation of various decarbonization deployment strategies over varying time horizons.

This research has been funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as part of a project titled “LOwering CO2: Models to Optimize Train Infrastructure, Vehicles, and Energy Storage (LOCOMOTIVES)” under the US Department of Energy.

The Northwestern University Freight Rail Infrastructure & Energy Network Decarbonization (NUFRIEND) Dashboard is now available for public use on the NUTC website at:

Here, users can analyze different decarbonization technologies and deployment strategies on US rail networks to understand the benefits and challenges of freight rail sustainability investments. Users can learn to use the dashboard by watching the Demo Video or reading the NUFRIEND Dashboard User Guide for more information. The NUFRIEND Framework Code Package has been made publicly available on a GitHub code repository where users can download all the produced code, data, and test scenarios for their individual analysis. A NUFRIEND Code Package User Guide and Demo Video have been produced to assist users in downloading and running the program.

In addition, the NUTC has published a 2023 Final Report for the NUFRIEND Dashboard (DOI) and a 2024 Final Report of Expansions and Updates to the NUFRIEND Framework (DOI) as well as a series of informational pieces, titled NUFRIEND Insights (see right-side bar), that break down different problem components in greater depth.

 To cite our work, please use:

Hernandez, A., Ng, M.T.M., Siddique, N., Durango-Cohen, P.L., Elgowainy, A., Mahmassani, H.S., Wang, M., Zhou, Y. (Joann), 2024. Evaluation of Rail Decarbonization Alternatives: Framework and Application. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board 2678, 102–121.


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