V/Line VLocity train emissions

The core of V/Line’s fleet is the VLocity train, the first of which entered service back in 2005. So how dirty are the diesel engines that power them?

VLocity VL57 emerges from the fog with an up Geelong service at Ravenhall

What’s under the hood?

Each train is made up of three carriages, and each carriage has two diesel engines beneath it

A 19-litre Cummins QSK19-R rated at 559 kW (750 hp) to move the train.

Cummins QSK19-R main engine horizontally mounted beneath a VLocity railcar

And a 5.9 litre Cummins 6BT5.9G generator set rated at 85 kW to power the air conditioning, lights, and auxiliaries.

Cummins 6BT5.9G generator set beneath a VLocity railcar

The Cummins QSK19-R engine is used in trains around the world, with over 1,700 units already in service.

The original QSK19-R, released in 1999 with the High-Pressure Injection fuel system (HPI), powered the world’s fastest diesel railcar to 222 km/hr (138 mph) and quickly set new industry standards for high reliability and low operating costs in passenger rail service.

The all-new Cummins QSK19-R, now upgraded with a Modular Common Rail Fuel System (MCRS) and urea Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) aftertreatment, delivers the same reliable power and economical operation at Tier 4/Stage IIIB emissions standards.

Clean-burn technology significantly reduces engine-out Particulate Matter (PM) and does not require an exhaust particulate filter. Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions are reduced with urea SCR, which has proven to be robust, reliable and extremely effective.

Closed-crankcase ventilation eliminates 100 percent of crankcase emissions at all times. Efficient, service-free filtration strips the oils and feeds the gases back into the engine for complete combustion, ensuring a clean engine compartment and a cleaner environment.

A few statistics

V/Line’s fleet of trains consume around 200 litres per 100 km travelled:

Fuel consumption rates (diesel) for V/Line has been based on fuel consumption data and vehicle kilometres travelled provided by V/Line for 2014/15.

And in 2008 V/Line was using around 31 million litres of diesel a year:

With a loco using about three litres of diesel per kilometre, V/Line gets through a whole lot of fuel over the course of a year.

In fact, V/Line bought about 31 million litres of diesel in the past year – an increase of 30 per cent since the introduction of VLocity trains, the start of the new service plan and the
installation of fuel points at Bendigo and Geelong.

With only a few fuel companies in Australia large enough to supply the amount of diesel needed to run our fleet, it’s important that V/Line gets the best deal going.

In September last year, tender submissions closed for the V/Line bulk fuel contract, worth a not-so-paltry $35 million. Six companies put in their tenders after attending briefings and site inspections and the contract has been awarded to BP.

In an effort to reduce emissions in 2012–13 V/Line trialled catalytic converters on VLocity trains:

V/Line has started trialling a catalytic converter on a VLocity unit with the aim of reducing diesel emissions. Catalytic converters change toxic exhaust into a less toxic substance and are common on motor vehicles which run on petrol. The converter sits in the exhaust system, and while testing is still being carried out, if found successful, consideration will be given to retrofitting the VLocity fleet.

In 2015 they started spruiking their use of BP ‘Ultimate Diesel’ to fuel the fleet.

Advertisement for 'BP Ultimate Diesel' on VLocity 3VL59

And in their 2017-18 annual report they stated that energy consumption intensity was falling.

Energy consumption intensity continued to decrease at V/Line in 2017-18, falling to 0.839 MJ/passenger km. This is a 3.3 per cent decrease from the previous year’s consumption of 0.868 MJ/passenger km.

And the Level Crossing Removal Authority’s air quality assessment for the Caulfield to Dandenong project spelled out the emissions created by VLocity trains

Table 3 Emission Factors

Pollutant Emission Rate, kg/h Emission Factor, g/km
NO2 0.45 9.05
PM10 0.1 2.01
PM2.5 0.1 2.01

For two 3‐car trains (6‐car sets). The emission factors were calculated based on a line speed of 80 km/h.

So what emissions standards do V/Line’s trains meet?

Back in 2006 someone asked V/Line that very question:

For over a year I have been corresponding with the state government on particulate pollution from V/Line Diesels around Spencer Street. There is a national voluntary reporting mechanism for emissions (the National Pollution Inventory, managed in Victoria by the EPA) and V/Line has volunteered not to do it. As part of the to-ing and fro-ing, I did get one letter from the DOI which had this to say.

Their answer at the time being:

Over the last five years, the Government commenced updating its country passenger rolling stock, opting for the VLocity passenger cars in preference to locomotive-hauled carriages. VLocity engines comply with Euro 2 emission standards.

In 2018 I decided to ask pose the same to them, to see what has changed:

I was wondering:
– what exhaust emission standards do V/Line’s VLocity trains meet (eg: United States ‘Tier X’ or European Union ‘Euro X’ standards)
– has there been any work done to reduce the exhaust emissions of VLocity trains since they first entered service a decade or so ago, and
– are there any plans to reduce the exhaust emissions of VLocity trains in future

And they eventually got back to me:

Our Fleet Maintenance Manager has advised that current traction engine is designed to Euro II requirements.

Some VLocity have had a particulate filter added to the exhaust system. This upgrade has only started this year and it is planned to upgrade the remainder of the fleet as they undergo overhaul. With this modifications the engines are capable of Euro IIIa.

A Euro IV package is currently being investigated for new builds and replacement engines.

So some progress, but plenty of work still to do.


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14 Responses to “V/Line VLocity train emissions”

  1. Jedd C says:

    I always though that VLocity trains should be converted to Electro-Diesel operation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electro-diesel_locomotive) and run on the existing overheads to Suburban termini and Diesel thereafter. Might not be practical with the existing DMU design though.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      VLocity trains use a hydraulic transmission – so making them electro-diesel is more work than converting a diesel-electric transmission, because you’d be pretty much starting from scratch.

  2. Kevin says:

    Assuming elimination of diesel is desirable, what pathways are available, if any, to eliminate the use of diesel, such as converting to fully-electric operation?

  3. Andrew says:

    Interesting. Pollution controls are on the improve and the target is the high European standard. I love the sound of a VLocity starting off, the roar not equalling the acceleration. I suppose I have it right in that the engines power generators that power electric motors??? At least I know a bit about hydraulic transmissions.

    • mich says:

      No, Andrew, the diesel motor powers the wheels directly through a 2-speed transmission with a hydraulic torque converter.

      This is in contrast to the majority of stand-alone diesel locomotives which use the diesel to power a generator which then powers an electric motor to drive the wheels ( a diesel-electric locomotive ).

      The diesel-hydraulic arrangement is common in diesel-multiple-unit (DMU) passenger railcars. Both diesel-electric and diesel-hydraulic schemes have their advantages and disadvantages, and for DMU passenger trains, the specific requirement favour diesel-hydraulic.

      A significant advantage of diesel-hydraulic is that they can be produced more compactly , and fit under the floor better.

  4. mich says:

    “So back in 2006 someone asked VLine …”

    “.. and they eventually got back tome..”

    So was that “someone” you ?

  5. Corey says:

    What about the use of adBlue. Is there any sign of them using this?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I haven’t seen any extra filling pipe for AdBlue. On modern buses they’re easy to spot – but only the newer Euro 4 and above spec engines use it.

      • Norah says:

        Where the Cummins documentation talks of urea SCR, that is a generic term for Adblue, which is a registered trademark. Both follow the AUS 32 ISO standard for diesel exhaust fluids. Whether or not that system is implemented on the QSK19-R engines that are actually in the Vlocity’s is another question entirely. The suggestion that simple particulate filters are being applied implies they aren’t because they would make a negligible difference with a DEF system already on board. However, where they discuss the use of a catalytic converter, that seems to suggest that they may be installing a DEF system, as the main functional part of the exhaust system with DEF is a CC where the liquid is sprayed into.

        In any case, if Cummins are making the engine with that option available, it’s incredibly concerning that new-build Vlocity’s may be omitting it when the cost of retrofitting the tech would likely be marginal. An engine that has been fitted with such a system can safely run when out of fluid, though obviously at a higher rate of emissions, but no higher than without the system. Retrofitting that slowly, adding a filling station at SC and then working out towards the regional centres would be an easy policy win.

        The best solution still remains electrification though. I think that V/line’s impressive and continuing ridership climb undeniably solidified the business case for electrifying not only the Geelong line, but also Ballarat, Bendigo & Seymour. Creating interchange points at the end of these lines electrification, where rural diesel passengers can swap from their newly-founded Vlocity trains onto fast and frequent electric services would be a must, to allow the services to operate without delays into the city. An important first step would be the quadruplication of the lines to Melton & Wyndham Vale in preparation for their electrification and transfer into the Metro system.

  6. Thomas Olejniczak says:

    Although covered above about the suitability (or impracticality) of retro fitting a Velocity for Hydrogen operation in the future. How big are the tanks on a 3 car set ? How many trips can a 3 car set make from SCS-Bendigo before refuelling?

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