Overhead Line - Technical Advances Lower Running Costs

Technical Advances Lower Running Costs

The introduction of supercapacitors has promised to drop electrical running costs for trains powered by overhead lines or third rails. Kinetic braking energy is reclaimed by storing electrical energy in supercapacitors on board the vehicle. This stored energy is used when accelerating the train, when high current is needed. The supplementing supercapacitors reduce current drawn through the electrical supply during acceleration and puts less strain on the distribution system.

Later developments locate banks of supercapacitors at track side. All trains on the system can then use the stored energy in the supercapacitors to supplement the energy drawn through a third rail or overhead wires. Trackside location reduces vehicle weight and creates more onboard space. However, such locations would require additional equipment to charge the supercapacitors from the overhead line voltage and to generate supplementary power at the voltage and frequency of the overhead line from the stored energy.

Claimed energy reduction is around 30%. Electric railway systems can be more competitive and a real economical alternative to automobiles.

The technology can be used equally well for diesel electric locomotives, where 25% to 40% reduction in energy consumption is claimed, however only onboard location of supercapacitor banks is feasible. (This technology equally applies to road vehicles that use electric motors for propulsion, such as hybrid cars and buses.) Any electrical equipment that requires regular braking can reduce operating costs using supercapacitors. Reduced operating costs of elevators on underground railways would be a great benefit to operators and adding to their economic competitiveness.

An additional benefit is that emissions from generating plants and diesel-electric locomotives will be decreased.

Since 2003, the Mannheim Stadtbahn in Germany has operated a light-rail vehicle using electric double-layer supercapacitors to store braking energy.

A number of companies are developing electric double-layer supercapacitor technology. Siemens AG is developing mobile energy storage based on double-layer supercapacitors called Sibac Energy Storage Sitras SES, are developing stationary trackside version. The company Cegelec is also developing an electric double-layer capacitor-based energy storage system.

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