Athanasios Iraklis, Christos Iraklis, Andreas Hoffrichter

Abstract- Rail vehicles function as the most efficient and the least polluting means of human and goods transportation on land. Consequently, efforts have to be made towards affordable low-cost expansion of rail networks as one of the most promising solutions for low carbon mobility. The 4Cs (Carbon, Cost, Capacity, Customer) set as goals for railways by the UK Department of Transport require new advanced ways of propulsion; the transfer of expertise and knowledge from other sectors can aid the achievement of these goals. Wayside electrification networks suffer from high installation and maintenance costs, and rail operators struggle with meeting stricter than ever emission regulations, both requiring new forms of advanced propulsion to address these problems. This article discusses the concept of battery electric traction with grid-based or stationary battery bank-based opportunity charging for catenary free operation, as a promising solution for low-cost and emission-free expansion of rail networks, especially for light rail vehicle (LRV) operation.

Stephen Kent
University of Birmingham, UK

The railways are under pressure to increase capacity, reduce operating costs, and cut their contribution to pollution and CO2 emissions.  Electrification can help in this respect by providing high performance trains that maximise capacity and reduce pollution in our towns and cities.  But electrification is expensive, and while justifiable on heavily used lines, rural and branch lines simply don’t see the levels of traffic and revenue to justify this expense.

There are other issues with electrification including the visual impact of overhead wires and masts, and the disruption that the installation of electrification can cause, particularly where bridge structures and tunnels need to be enlarged.  The rail network also consumes a significant proportion of the UK’s overall electricity supply, estimated to be around 3 TWh (ATOC, 2007) per annum for traction out of a total of 331 TWh for the UK as a whole (International Energy Agency, 2016), i.e. approximately 1%.  Railways also draw large quantities of power during the morning and evening peaks, and traction loads consume just a single phase from the UK’s 3-phase distribution network, unbalancing the National Grid.  With the push to electrify the UK’s mainlines, the burden on Britain’s already stretched generation and distribution networks will increase.  So what are the alternatives?

By Philip Krein


As I complete my term as Chair of the IEEE Transportation Electrification Community (TEC), I would like to share some long-term perspective.  It has been interesting to watch the progression of transportation electrification over the past 25 years, and especially over the past five as the TEC has started and matured.  In spite of the more than 100 year history of electric transportation, electric and hybrid cars were little more than clever demonstration projects even when the EV1 was introduced.  Contrast this to the end of 2016, when electrification is a recognized trend, increasingly embraced as a leadership opportunity in many industry sectors.  Many cities and governments are implementing supportive policies to reduce air pollution.  Several nations are pushing to help form major growth industries in electric transport.  Electrification trends and new products in the automotive sector now routinely make headlines, although steady progress continues in nearly all other vehicle and transport sectors.  The disruptions of ride-sharing services and local city rentals are reshaping urban transportation in ways that favor electrification.  This newsletter issue takes it even farther, with discussions of self-contained electric rail to eliminate wire connections, coming full circle from fully electric rail back to hybrid systems.

Rail and road electrification, what can they learn from each other?


This newsletter presents two papers that explore the possibilities of battery and fuel cell based electric railroad traction. One of the main reasons for introducing batteries and fuel cells for rail operation is the relatively high investment cost of the catenary system, especially on railroad lines with sparse train operations. Battery and fuel cell powered vehicles have been for a long time important technologies for road vehicles where battery powered vehicles as well as different kinds of hybrids are relatively common today. Even though battery powered rail vehicles have been used historically for special purposes like shunting, this is partly a new technological link from road-vehicle electrification to rail-vehicle electrification.

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