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Amtrak - Defining Energy Efficiency

See How Rail Travel Uses Less Fuel than Cars or Planes.

Historically high gasoline prices lead environmentalists to step up their pressure on governments to seek cleaner methods for everyday tasks. How to get from point A to point B never has been more of an issue than it is today. How can we balance our travel needs and the environment while not adversely affecting our economy. Rail travel is the answer.

Rail travel is more energy efficient, and uses less fuel, than cars or airplanes. According to U.S. Department of Energy data, Amtrak is almost 20 percent more efficient than domestic airline travel and 30 percent more efficient than auto travel on a per-passenger-mile basis.

Take a look at the video and info below and see for yourself.

That's not all. Here are a few more changes Amtrak has made to conserve energy:

  • Unlike commercial aviation, which mostly uses highly refined jet fuel, Amtrak uses diesel fuel produced at a higher volume per barrel of crude oil and electricity produced in the Northeast from a variety of fuels.
  • Amtrak has an operating policy to reduce the amount of time that a powered locomotive is idle and is installing a new automatic shut-off system in its diesel locomotive fleet to limit idling.
  • Increased use of dynamic braking, which involves the electric traction motors in locomotives, provides resistance to the rotating wheel axle. This method of slowing trains is more fuel-efficient than braking with power applied.
  • Acela Express high speed trains and other new and remanufactured electric locomotives have enabled Amtrak to reduce energy consumption by up to eight percent through the use of a regenerative braking system. This braking system returns electric energy overhead to the catenary power system and replaces some of the electrical energy consumed.
  • Amtrak recently introduced 80 new vehicle carriers for the Auto Train. These are substantially lighter than the ones they replaced and have helped reduce annual diesel fuel usage by about 640,000 gallons — while carrying more vehicles.
  • Last year, Amtrak substituted electric locomotives for diesel locomotives on the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pa., improving fuel efficiency and schedules.

* BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, a standard unit of energy. Figures listed refer to BTUs used per passenger mile.