FAQ – CO2Rail Technology

Questions About the Tech

What is Co2Rail?
CO2Rail has developed rail-based, self-powered climate change mitigation technology utilizing the global rail network, purpose-built rail equipment, and sustainable regenerative braking energy generated from stopping or slowing an entire train many times per day with no external energy inputs required. This tremendous source of train-generated energy is used to power direct air capture (“DAC”) modules which remove excess carbon dioxide gas from the ambient air. The gas is then compressed into a liquid form and then transported into the circular carbon economy to make value-added products or to geological sequestration sites where it is pumped deep underground where it remains permanently trapped in rock formations.

Even more, the exhaust emissions from diesel locomotives themselves can also be removed with the same type of technology.
The result?  The most efficient form of large-scale transportation is made nearly carbon-neutral in its normal operations and significantly carbon-negative in its ambient air DAC operations.
How does the Co2Rail System capture Carbon Dioxide?
Co2Rail uses Direct Air Capture or “DAC” technology to capture CO2 from the air.
How is the Co2Rail System powered?
Hybrid, Regenerative Braking Energy and, in the future, Solar Cells mounted atop suitable railcars within the train.
When the Engineer engages the train’s energy braking system, the locomotive’s electric motors are used to convert the forward momentum of the train into electrical energy. This electrical energy is then passed back to the CO2Rail cars and is used to recharge the 2,400 kWh battery arrays contained in the lower portion of each car.
When compared to using the energy for propulsion, only about 20% of CO2 emissions are mitigated as compared to using that same amount of energy for on-board DAC operations. This output product of this analysis can be seen in Figure 2A in the Joule paper.
What do you do with the Carbon Dioxide after it is captured?
It is “sequestered” or permanently injected deep into the ground where it will stay indefinitely or utilized to make useful products.
What type of EV batteries will be used to power the Co2Rail units?
We are looking at a handful of different suppliers but are leaning towards the same batteries used in the Tesla Model S.  These are 100 KWh batteries and we have designed the unit around 24 such batteries in each array.
You mention solar cells installed on Railcars to provide even more energy than produced by Regenerative Braking alone, won’t that take a significant amount of time to accomplish?
Yes.  Railcars move from one train to another many times between their origin and destination so even if a particular group of Cars has Solar Cells installed, there is no guarantee that those same cars will be on the same train tomorrow. In that way, we can see that a non-trivial proportion of a particular Railcar fleet would have to be equipped with solar capability before an appreciable uptick in productivity is realized. It would also be important that a non-trivial number of Co2Rail Cars are in active operation so this investment in Railcar PV is properly utilized.

The additional power available from Solar Cells to remove Carbon Dioxide from the air is substantial but not critical to productive deployment.  It will indeed take years to retrofit existing suitable Railcars and work with manufacturers to install solar cells on suitable newly produced Railcars.
If it will take such a long time to deploy Solar Railcars, how long will it take to deploy Regenerative Braking on Locomotives?
That is the easy part of this whole project.   Regenerative Braking Capability is already present on nearly 100% of long-distance Locomotives and has been for many decades.  It is just currently known as “Dynamic Braking” because the energy is completely wasted by being converted into resistance heat and blown out the top of the Locomotive during each braking maneuver.
If Regenerative or Dynamic Braking is already present on most Locomotives, what is the energy currently used for?
Nothing.  It is turned into resistance heat and blown out the top of the Locomotives by powerful fans each time the brakes are applied to the Train.
How much energy is produced every time a Train stops?
Approximately 300 – 600 kWh per complete braking maneuver depending primarily on the weight of the Train and the speed it was traveling before the brakes were applied – sometimes more.  This is enough electricity to power between 10 – 20 homes for an entire day from each stop.
Are there other companies doing Direct Air Capture?
Yes.  There are a few.  The top three as of this writing are Climeworks (Swiss), Carbon Engineering (Canadian), and Global Thermostat (US).  These three companies each have operational land-based DAC facilities and we invite you to explore what they are doing and support them in any way you can.  Climate change is an enormous problem that will require many solutions.   We encourage support across the entire industry.

What sets Co2Rail apart from other solutions?
Energy Usage
System Efficiency (e.g. no fans required)
No Land-Based Footprint
Why is now the right time for this solution?
Direct Air Capture technology has grown by leaps and bounds just over the last few years.  Additionally,  the EV battery industry has progressed to the point where prices are under $100 per KWh and supply chains are somewhat predictable.
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