Connectivity to sustainability, the future of the rail industry looks different

Connectivity to sustainability, the future of the rail industry looks different

Zephyr locomotives, named after the Greek god of wind, got everyone’s attention in 1930s with their shining stainless-steel looks and high speed. They have also re-invigorated the interest in the rail industry and became the poster child of the industry for decades. 

The next big transformation in the rail industry will have less to do with steel and more to do with silicon and different fuels. We will likely not see the looks of locomotives change dramatically, yet what is under the hood will make the difference. This article outlines three ways the rail industry’s near future will be different.   

No. 1: Connectivity will amplify the benefits of IoT, AI and machine learning

Connectivity is the backbone or the nervous system that brings together other technologies including IoT, AI and machine learning. IoT objects can track different parameters; AI can instill the intelligence needed to make sense out of data collected, and machine learning can lead the execution of tasks; but connectivity brings these together and amplifies each one’s contributions. 

Meanwhile, 5G expands the capacity of connectivity and enables it to be more reliable with much lower latency. For the rail industry, this means the number of IoT devices can be increased on locomotives without congesting the wavelengths. Higher reliability and lower latency mean mission-critical tasks requiring instant intervention and commonly not handled by machines, can now be handled through connected devices. 

Locomotives are getting increasingly connected, and the emergence of 5G will further fuel the use of connectivity within and beyond locomotives. Our next article on this series takes a deeper look at the three components of a connected rail eco-system. 

No 2: A set of diverse power systems will give rail operators fit-for-market solutions 

In the 1800s, steam-powered locomotives were the sole option for rail operators. In the 1930s, diesel-powered locomotives started to gain traction and became the primary option. More recently, two technologies, diesel-electric and full-electric share most of the market when it comes to powering locomotives. 

Meanwhile, there are emerging power system technologies trialed by the rail industry. These include fuel cells, both solid oxide and proton-exchange membrane, batteries and hybrid solutions.  

Going forward, it is expected there will be a more diverse set of power system technologies used in the market, instead of one or two technologies dominating others. Rail operators are expected to pick and choose the right power system technology based on infrastructure availability, local regulations, economic feasibility and customer preferences. 

This will result in currently leading technologies, diesel-electric and full-electric, to co-exist with emerging technologies, such as fuel cells and batteries, often through hybrid applications. 

No. 3: Decreasing emissions will lay the path towards the all-renewable future

For many sectors where energy is used, it is commonly agreed the final destination is an all-renewable future. Meanwhile, the pace towards the destination varies significantly. For example, about 30% of the electricity we use today is from renewables, and it is forecasted after 2040, we will be getting more of our electricity from renewables than fossil-fuels.

Mix of technologies from electronics and controls to aftertreatment systems are used in the race towards near-zero NOx engine emissions
Mix of technologies from electronics and controls to aftertreatment systems are used in the race towards near-zero NOx engine emissions

A key focus during our journey towards an all-renewable future is lowering the emissions of leading power system technologies. For instance, emissions of nitrous oxides and particulate matter of diesel engines have decreased over 80% over the last two decades. Technologies such as selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) enabled this significantly reduced environmental footprint. 

Going forward, decreasing emissions will continue to be a focal point. In the near term, diesel-hybrid and fuel cell applications will take the lead on lowering emissions. For example, during the second quarter of 2020, two trains powered by Cummins Inc. fuel cells completed an 18-month trial in Europe with over 180,000 km traveled. By 2022, there will be 41 of these types of trains powered by Cummins fuel cells running in Europe, making Cummins the leading provider of fuel cells for trains globally.

The rail industry has gone through its own share of changes over the last few decades, but the current decade is likely going to be a transformative one. Rail professionals’ minds are occupied by topics ranging from technology choices to talent gaps; meanwhile the industry is embracing a diverse set of power solutions and speeding up the connectivity journey.  

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Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

Company posts first TCFD report on climate actions

Cummins' technology is helping to power the world's first hydrogen powered passenger train. (Photo copyright Alstom/Reme Frampe))
Cummins' technology is helping to power the world's first hydrogen powered passenger train. (Photo copyright Alstom/Reme Frampe)

Cummins has posted its first environmental sustainability report aligned to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), a platform created to improve and increase reporting of climate-related information. 

The company’s TCFD report joins Cummins reports aligned to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and the CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project) in addition to Cummins' Sustainability Progress Reports. The company has been reporting annually on its sustainability work since 2003.

NEW REPORT'S ROOTS

Cummins’ 27-page TCFD report details the company’s strategy to address climate change, governance at Cummins for overseeing the company’s climate-related initiatives, its structure to manage climate-related risks and the metrics and targets the company uses to evaluate its impact on climate issues.

The new report borrows significantly from PLANET 2050, Cummins' environmental sustainability strategy. PLANET 2050 includes science-based goals timed to 2030 and aligned to the Paris Agreement on climate change, as well as the aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050. The new TCFD report also draws heavily from information included in the company’s annual CDP Climate Report, which Cummins has been reporting to since 2006 and posting its response publicly since 2014.  

Finally, the new report includes extensive information on the company’s two decades of leadership on emissions related issues, from having the first heavy-duty engine certified to tough new EPA standards in 2002 to the unveiling of PLANET 2050 in the last quarter of 2019. Cummins has long supported tough, clear and enforceable regulations that spur innovation in the commercial power industry. It has also actively advocated for action on the world’s climate challenges.

THE IMPORTANCE OF TCFD

TCFD has emerged quickly as an important platform in environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting over the past five years. The task force was created in 2015 by the Financial Stability Board, a group launched after the G20 London summit in 2009 to promote international financial stability. The TCFD’s first chairman was Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York City and a 2020 presidential candidate in the United States.

The task force released its first reporting standards in 2017 to encourage companies to report “clear, comprehensive, high-quality information on the impacts of climate change.” The TCFD standards received a major boost in 2020 when Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, an investment management corporation based in New York City, called the standards a “valuable framework” for reporting on climate risk in his influential annual letter to CEOs. With more than $8 trillion in assets under management, BlackRock has considerable influence.

“Climate change poses both risks and opportunities for business, now and in the future,” TCFD says on its website. “As the Earth’s temperature rises, increasingly common natural disasters are disrupting ecosystems and human health, causing unanticipated business losses, and threatening assets and infrastructure.”  

The TCFD report will soon be followed by Cummins’ 2020-21 Sustainability Overview and the company’s 2020 Sustainability Progress Report looking at key ESG metrics for 2020. Those wanting to learn more can also check out Cummins’ Sustainability website.
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

ESG performance propels Cummins to 2021 Best Corporate Citizens list

Cummins rejoined the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List Tuesday thanks to high rankings on ESG Performance and acting on Climate Change.
Cummins rejoined the 100 Best Corporate Citizens List Tuesday.

Cummins has returned to the 100 Best Corporate Citizens list, tying for first in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Performance and finishing sixth in the survey’s Climate Change category.

The company ranked No. 49 overall in the survey’s review of the 1,000 largest publicly traded U.S. companies on sustainability performance and transparency. The ranking is based on publicly available data covering eight categories: Climate Change, Employees, Environment, ESG Performance, Financial, Governance, Human Rights and Stakeholders and Society.

“Now more than ever, corporate leadership on environmental, social and governance issues is imperative,” said 3BL Media, sponsors of the survey. “And so is transparency. As companies decarbonize, align with the (U.N.’s) Sustainable Development Goals and rebuild an equitable economy post-pandemic, they must be open about their efforts.”

3BL Media works with  companies including Cummins to help them reach key audiences concerned about ESG performance. However, 3BL is careful to say the Best Corporate Citizens review is completely independent. 3BL develops the methodology and ISS ESG, part of Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), researches the data and information and processes the ranking. ISS is a leading provider of ESG information for investors.

Cummins finished No. 27 in the 2019 100 Best Corporate Citizens ranking but fell to No. 121 in 2020. The company’s return to the list was fueled by its high ranking on ESG Performance and taking action Climate Change. Cummins tied for the top ranking in ESG Performance with 133 other companies that earned an “A” grade. 

ISS ESG looked at 100 different factors to assess performance with regard to managing risk and seizing opportunities involving ESG. Over the past year, Cummins has wrapped up its work on the company’s environmental performance goals timed to 2020, achieving the benchmarks established for conserving water and working with customers to reduce the environmental impact of Cummins' products in use, while falling just short of the goal set for reducing energy use.

Meanwhile, Cummins’ New Power business segment aggressively pursued development of battery and fuel cell electric products as well as products designed to increase the supply of green hydrogen, a promising low-carbon fuel source.

In addition, the company continued reducing the environmental impact of its diesel and natural gas products, achieving reductions in key emissions that contribute to smog and improving fuel economy, which results in lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In the social performance area, the company continued to advance gender equity in communities around the world in 2020 through the company’s Cummins Powers Women initiative and launched Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity that same year to help dismantle systemic racism in the United States. In governance, two Black women joined the 13-member Cummins Board of Directors in the past year, increasing the total number of women to five on the board or 38.5% of its membership.

On climate change, in addition to the company’s work on its 2020 environmental goals and New Power’s progress in low-carbon products, Cummins began implementing its PLANET 2050 environmental sustainability strategy. PLANET 2050 includes science-based goals timed to 2030 and the aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Cummins has received several high rankings for its ESG performance over the past 12 months. The company finished No. 84 in Barron’s list of the 100 Most Sustainable Companies in the U.S. earlier this year. Cummins was also named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute for a 14th consecutive year. 

The company was also one of 50 named to the National Business Inclusion Consortiums’ Best of the Best list of corporations committed to diversity and inclusion across all communities. In December 2020, the company finished No. 24 on Newsweek’s ranking of America’s Most Responsible Companies for 2021.
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

Cummins CEO promotes ESG progress at Annual Meeting

An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada).
An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada).

Despite the pandemic, Cummins was able to make significant progress on its environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities in 2020, Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger told shareholders and guests at the company’s Annual Meeting Tuesday.

The Cummins leader said the progress will be critical to achieve the goals and aspirations included in the company's PLANET 2050 environmental sustainability strategy.

Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger speaks at the Annual meeting in 2019, the last in-person meeting before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger speaks at the Annual Meeting in 2019, the last in-person Annual Meeting before the pandemic.

“We continued investment in our most important technology programs, which are critical to reaching our sustainability pledge of carbon neutrality by 2050,” Linebarger said at the meeting, which was conducted virtually because of the ongoing threat from COVID-19. “We are investing in a range of solutions to lead the industry on the path to a zero-emissions future, and we are taking steps today to turn our 2050 targets into real-world products and applications.”

ESG IN ACTION

Linebarger highlighted five areas in particular when discussing the company’s progress on ESG:

  • Delivering a 20-megawatt PEM electrolyzer system to generate green hydrogen in Bécancour, Quebec (Canada), making it the largest in operation in the world.
  • Providing fuel cell modules to ASKO, Norway’s largest grocery wholesaler, that were integrated into four Scania trucks, and fuel cells for FAUN, a leader in waste collection vehicles and sweepers in Europe for that company’s electric refuse truck program.
  • Cummins’ emergence as the largest supplier of fuel cells for the rail industry, including the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train. Linebarger said the company is using its experience in rail for other heavy-duty transportation applications.
  • In the battery-electric market, the delivery of 147 powertrains to Blue Bird in 2020 for use in the school bus market and 19 powertrains to Gillig for use in the transit bus market.
  • The formation of a joint venture with NPROXX to provide customers with high-pressure tank and storage solutions in hydrogen and natural gas markets.

“We continue investment in key technologies for the future,” Linebarger said. “We are targeting markets where commercial opportunities exist today or will emerge in the near- or medium-term.”

But the Cummins’ leader was careful to say Cummins cannot reach carbon neutrality by itself.

“We are advocating for public policies that enable the energy transition while reducing emissions,” Linebarger said. “This includes innovating and scaling low-carbon fuels, modernizing the grid and developing the hydrogen economy.”

Cummins remains committed to offering customers the power of choice, including advanced diesel and near-zero natural gas platforms. The company believes these technologies can reduce greenhouse gases immediately and serve as an important bridge to a carbon-neutral future as the infrastructure develops for low- and no-carbon platforms.

LEADING ON RACIAL EQUITY

Linebarger also highlighted Cummins’ 2020 work to address systemic racism in the United States. The company launched Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity, or CARE, to drive racial equity in Cummins communities and at the company, too.

CARE has four key focus areas: police reform; criminal justice reform; economic empowerment; and social justice reform in healthcare, housing, workforce development and civil rights, including voting rights and education.

“Institutional racism is a disease,” Linebarger said. “It is deeply rooted and longstanding, and it makes our society weaker. It will take decisive and sustained action to dismantle racism and Cummins will be part of that action.”

The Cummins CEO noted that company Tuesday took another step toward racial equity with the election of a third Black woman, Carla Harris, to the now 13-member Board of Directors and a fifth ethnically diverse member. Harris is Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley.

PURSUING A HEALTHIER PLANET

Linebarger said these and other steps forward in ESG excellence were only possible thanks to the outstanding work of employees during the pandemic. While the virus took a heavy toll on the company, a collaborative effort from the manufacturing floor to the company’s Board of Directors enabled Cummins to implement numerous steps to safely reopen.

The company also partnered with 3M and DuPont to help produce personal protective equipment for medical personnel around the world, shared what it learned from the pandemic to help other companies reopen through Cummins’ Safe Work Playbook, and approved a record $22 million in community grants including $2.6 million in emergency grants to partners providing pandemic-related services.

It’s all about Cummins living its mission, vision and values, Linebarger said.

“No matter the application, we will provide customers an economically viable solution so businesses can thrive, and we can sustain a vibrant economy while preserving the planet for generations to come,” he said. “Our communities and businesses depend on a healthier planet and this work is our mission in action.”

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

Cummins joins group advocating for climate action

An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada), a center for the company’s fuel cell and hydrogen production, research and development initiatives.
An employee works at the Cummins Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Technology campus in Mississauga, Ontario (Canada), a center for the company’s fuel cell and hydrogen production, research and development initiatives.

Cummins is celebrating Earth Week by joining the CEO Climate Dialogue, a group of 22 companies and four leading environmental groups committed to advocating for climate action in the U.S. Congress.

The group is calling for aggressive steps to address the country’s climate-related challenges, including an economy-wide price on carbon to use the power of the market to help achieve the country’s carbon reduction goals in a “simple, coherent and efficient manner.”

“Climate action is consistent with Cummins’ mission of making people’s lives better by powering a more prosperous world,” said Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger. “We support strong, market-based goals toward a carbon-neutral future and the CEO Climate Dialogue’s principle that a price on carbon is the best way to use the power of the market to achieve those goals.”

THE NEED TO ACT NOW

The announcement comes just a few days before President Biden’s virtual climate summit with global leaders on Earth Day (Thursday). Biden is expected to announce more ambitious carbon reduction targets and invite participating countries to join the U.S. in acting on climate-related issues.

The CEO Climate Dialogue is made up of a range of corporations including BP, Citi, Dow, DuPont, the Ford Motor Company, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Shell, Unilever, and others. But what makes the group truly special is the membership of leading environmental groups, including the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Resources Institute.

“It is urgent that the President and Congress put in place a long-term federal policy as soon as possible to protect against the worst impacts of climate change,” the group says. “Acting sooner rather than later allows us to meet the climate challenge at the least possible cost and put the necessary investments in place in time to meet our emissions targets.”

In late 2019, Cummins released PLANET 2050, the company’s environmental strategy for acting on climate change and other environmental concerns. The plan includes specific, ambitious, and measurable goals timed to 2030 aligned with the Paris Agreement to address climate change, and the aspiration to be carbon neutral as a company by 2050.

CUMMINS LEADERSHIP ROLE

Cummins has quickly emerged as a leader in battery-electric and fuel cell electric technology as well as technology to increase the supply of renewable hydrogen. The company is also working to improve its more traditional product lines, including its diesel and natural gas engines. The company has long supported tough environmental standards, using its technological expertise to grow Cummins’ business, create jobs and improve communities.

Company leaders have consistently said addressing the climate will require multiple technologies that must meet customer needs for dependable, durable and affordable power solutions.

“Sustaining a vibrant economy while using fewer of the earth’s resources is the challenge of our time,” Linebarger said. “Cummins is committed to meeting that challenge.”

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

 

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