SFU students to develop zero-emissions retrofit for Stanley Park Train

August 11, 2022

By Cindy Li

With the goal of a more sustainable future and an openness for collaboration to bring innovative problem-solving projects to fruition, SFU’s first cohort from the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, CityStudio Vancouver and the City of Vancouver are working together to electrify the Stanley Park Train. The student team made up of Mackenzie Calder, Thomas Hruby, Felipe Patarroyo Singh and Pamela Subia are applying their engineering skills to retrofit a gasoline engine to an emissions-free power unit as part of this goal.

“Our instructor, Zafar Adeel, presented us with a few ideas for SEE’s first capstone project,” says Calder who ensured deliverables and timelines were met for the project. “It was an easy decision for us to choose among the list of ideas on designing an electric motor to be retrofitted to the Stanley Park Train due to the impact it would have.”

Currently, the train undergoes frequent maintenance due to age as it continues to use the original gas engine from the 1960s. It also emits non-desirable smells and exhaust from the fossil fuel used. In the winter of 2021, 24 service calls were made alone for the Stanley Park Train in a span of 30 days.

“With a commitment to making Vancouver a greener city, electrifying the beloved train is a step forward in meeting the city’s sustainability goals,” says Singh, who ensured that the design met industry standards.

Pictured is the proposed and approved design of the electric motor, which includes a lithium-ion battery, the controller containing software and other electrical components, to be retrofitted into the Stanley Park Train.

“The motor design will be powered using lithium-ion battery, sized to fit the constraints of a single car train and will have software to communicate with all the electrical components seamlessly,” says Singh. “Just as important, we also designed the motor to meet safety and professional industry standards.”

“Switching to an electric motor will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, eliminate the smell caused by the exhaust, and substantially reduce the maintenance cost,” adds Calder.

While the engine will switch from gasoline to an emissions-free power unit, the train will retain its look and feel to maintain the experience for its users.

“For every decision made and parts chosen for the design, we had to justify why we made the decisions we made, provide updated reports on a regular basis, followed by more modifications as we received feedback,” says Hruby, who liaised with various suppliers and manufacturers.

Their design first garnered attention in CityStudio’s bi-annual HUBBUB showcase, an event that brings together city staff, faculty and students to feature students’ projects that address Vancouver’s most pressing issues. The student team won first place for their idea and design of an electric motor for the train.

“It was a wonderful experience to see how our skills became relevant, how the mechanical and electrical parts are related and interlinked, and how everything needs to be connected to each other to make a whole system,” says Subia, who worked on the implementation of the motor to the train and how it will work out in the physical vehicle.

A SEE capstone project comprises two semesters and provides an opportunity to fourth-year students to apply their skills and knowledge to a project of their choosing.

“It has been an exciting process to work with this team of students, who were the first to apply to our new SEE program and some of whom will be the first to graduate from the program this fall, with the opportunity to work on a project that involves the iconic Stanley Park Train,” says Adeel, SEE professor of professional practice and instructor for the SEE 410W and SEE 411 capstone courses.

Photo of student team and faculty from the School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, and staff from the City of Vancouver. Top, left to right: SEE professor of professional practice Zafar Adeel, Rosemary Yip and Krista Moyls from City of Vancouver, Mackenzie Calder and Felipe Patarroyo Singh. Bottom, left to right: SEE teaching assistant Laura Whelan, Pamela Subia and Thomas Hruby.

Since the approval of the design, the City of Vancouver has ordered parts to test and retrofit the locomotive. Due to supply-chains issues, the parts required for the prototype retrofit will be arriving in the coming week. As these students are set to graduate this fall, a second team of students will be stepping in to move the project forward through a continued collaboration between SFU, CityStudio Vancouver and City of Vancouver will continue to move the project forward.

“We are passing the project to fellow SEE students who we’ve worked with closely and this gives us assurance that the project is in good hands,” says Calder.

A physical prototype is aimed to be ready by early next year. Once ready, the prototype will be handed to the City of Vancouver for field testing and safety approvals.