Electric, Autonomous Freight Rail - The Road to Autonomy

Electric, Autonomous Freight Rail

Matt Soule, Co-Founder & CEO, Parallel Systems joined Grayson Brulte on The Road to Autonomy podcast to discuss Parallel’s electric, autonomous freight rail system.

The conversation begins with Matt discussing the founding of Parallel Systems.

The energy efficiency of rail uniquely allows for reduction in energy and therefore reduction in CO2.

– Matt Soule

Parallel Systems is working to re-imagine how freight moves on rail by going smaller and simpler with autonomous battery rail cars. The system is flexible and it works with legacy rail operators, which allows those operators further optimize their capacity.

Parallel is developing a system that allows rail to expand their addressable market.

– Matt Soule

To help rail become more competitive with trucks, Parallel’s system allows truck unit economics without the massive scale.

Our economics do not require amortization over large amounts of freight.

– Matt Soule

The system operates autonomously on rail routes that compete with drayage operations a platoon. The autonomous rail platoon will max out around 50 cars as it’s the most efficient means of moving freight on the Parallel system. Unlike traditional trains that can block road roadways for extended periods of time, Parallel’s contact-based platooning system allows for the cars to disconnect and reconnect as to not slow traffic for an extended period of time.

When Parallel starts the process of commercializing their technology, the company wants to be a vendor to rail operators. They are not going to act as a service provider and compete with the traditional rail industry. During the dwell time when cars are loaded and unloaded, Parallel’s cars will be able to charge. To charge, the system will require 3 to 10 megawatts of charging capacity. Parallel cars will get around 500 range of mile with a 250 kilowatt battery.

One of the major advantages of the Parallel system is the system’s ability to dramatically change the braking force, allowing the train to stop faster.

What Parallel is doing is developing a braking system that does close the loop and we are able to dramatically change our braking force depending on the track conditions, the adhesion of the train wheel to the track, as well as how heavily we are loaded. We are trying to stop as fast as physics will allow us.

– Matt Soule

Dynamic braking helps the system operate more safely. The Parallel approach to rail has caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Energy as Parallel was rewarded a $4.4 million grant to fund a 29-month advanced testing program with the goal of quantifying the environmental impact and the overall vehicle stability of their system.

Wrapping up the conversation, Matt shares his opinion on the future of freight.

Parallel is creating capacity for freight.

– Matt Soule

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Recorded on Friday December 9, 2022