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Optimal Control of Heavy-Haul Freight Trains to Save Fuel

Fuel burned by North American Class 1 railroads in diesel-electric freight service in 2007 exceeded 4.1 Billion gallons, resulting at 2007 fuel prices, in 13% of overall operations expense1. Trends in fuel prices, ignoring the present hiatus due to the economy, are only upward. As more freight shifts to rail directly and via inter-modal truck/train haulage to leverage incredible efficiency of rail transit compared to other modes, total fuel usage will accelerate. This presentation describes a software control system applicable to diesel-electric locomotive hauled freight that can achieve double-digit fuel savings. Energy savings derive from managing train momentum, with anticipation of its effects, to reduce the net energy outlay by the train as it completes a trip. GE’s system has two major components: the first is a planning system that derives an optimal way to drive the train (throttle together with a corresponding speed trajectory versus distance) subject to speed restrictions along the route and locomotive operating constraints; the second component is a dynamic control system that executes the plan closed-loop, correcting for modeling errors from various sources and assuring safe train handling. Key features of the algorithm are ability to optimize for minimum fuel subject to a desired arrival time (pacing) or to minimize travel time, and in both cases to assure safe train handling. A closed-loop dynamic control regulator system takes the optimal solution and corrects for various disturbances and model errors. Location along the track route is derived from GPS blended with on-board measurements in a Kalman filter. The resulting software was rapid prototyped 100% in a Matlab xPC platform, installed in locomotives on various railroads in live revenue service. Results from the final commercial system now in service on Canadian Pacific Railroad will be shown.

Type of Seminar:
Public Seminar
Dr. Paul K. Houpt
GE Global Research Automation and Controls Laboratory K1-5C30A 1 Research Circle, Niskayuna NY 12309 USA
Oct 13, 2009   16:15 /

ETZ E 81
Contact Person:

Prof. M. Morari
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Biographical Sketch:
Paul earned his B.S. from Syracuse University, his M.S. from New York University, and his Ph.D. from M.I.T., all in Electrical Engineering. From 1966-1970, he was a member of technical staff in the Power Systems division of Bell Laboratories, in Whippany NJ. At Bell an assignment to develop a fuel-optimal control strategy for the Apollo lunar lander spawned a life-passion for controls. He was a post doc in MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems from 1974-1978, where his research focused on freeway traffic control and model-based highway incident detection. Paul transitioned to the Mechanical Engineering faculty at MIT in 1978 as Detroit Diesel Allison Associate Professor, where his research and teaching concentrated on control systems for vehicular propulsion systems (gas and diesel engines), wind-power generation and manufacturing process control for semiconductor materials. Since 1985, has been associated with the Automation and Controls Laboratory at GE Global Research, where he is currently Principal Scientist, Controls. At GE Paul has served in several technical contributor and management roles, all associated with the development of control systems for GE products and manufacturing processes. Contributions include: multivariable controls for GE aircraft engines and power generation turbines; manufacturing processes using robotics for edge finishing and plasma-sprayed thermal barrier coatings; high volume at line polymer compounding viscosity and color control. Paul currently leads and contributes to teams developing freight locomotive engine and system controls to save fuel, reduce emissions, improve traction performance and wayside systems for train health monitoring through hot bearing and axle detection. Dr. Houpt has served on program committees for several American Control Conference and Conference on Decision and Controls conferences, as an associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, and was twice elected to the IEEE Control Systems Society board of Governors. Since 1995, he has been a member of the advisory board of the Institute for Systems Research at the University of Maryland. Dr. Houpt has published widely on vehicular system controls and diagnostics, process control and gas turbine control. He has been issued 15 patents (8 additional pending) on developments in locomotive controls, process controls and wayside rail diagnostics. In 2005, Dr. Houpt was elected a Fellow of the IEEE for ‘Contributions to the Control of Transportation Vehicles and Systems,’ and also received GE Global Research’s Dushman award, its highest team award, selected for the team’s contributions to the successful commercialization of the GE Evolution Locomotive. Currently, Paul is leading a global team to commercialize Trip Optimizer, an optimal “cruise-control” for freight trains. This system will save 10-25% in fuel use and emissions production for heavy-haul freight trains.