The International Light Rail Magazine
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Fuel cell tram evolution

Fuel cell tram evolution

Recent years have seen a rapid evolution in the application of hydrogen fuel cell technology to trams and light rail vehicles. Things have come a long way since Spanish metre-gauge operator Feve announced that a prototype built by Fenit Rail would first enter trial service in 2011[1]; the vehicle chosen for conversion was a 14.3m Series 3400 car built for SNCV in Belgium. It has capacity for 24-40 passengers, with a maximum speed of 25km/h (15.5mph). The innovative traction power system installed consists of two proton-exchange (PEM) HyPM HD12 fuel cell modules made by Canada-based Hydrogenics. With a power rating of 12kW for each fuel cell, 156 lithium-ion batteries with a total power of 120kW and capacity of 90Ah each, each tram also has three Maxwell supercapacitor modules with a capacity of 63F for 125V voltage. Twelve storage cylinders contain 50 litres of hydrogen each at a pressure of 2900psi (200 Bar). The weight of the modified tram is 26t. Energy generated by the fuel cells, batteries and supercapacitors goes to the three converters (each of their output energy sources) and is supplied to the dc bus at 670-700V dc. This dc voltage goes from the bus to an inverter that converts it into three-phase ac power to feed four asynchronous traction motors at 30kW each. An onboard rectifier allows the energy storage to be recharged during stops from an external ac source. The main objective of the project was to confirm the power block diagram of the fuel cell tram. As a testbed vehicle, some equipment was placed in the passenger compartment, reducing the number of seats. Hydrogen...
Traction energy efficiency solutions

Traction energy efficiency solutions

Although perhaps not as obvious a route for reducing ongoing costs as physical assets such as rolling stock, track, depots or stops, one of the major ‘everyday’ costs for urban rail undertakings is in managing their electricity demand. And with ever-growing service hours, more intensive daily operations and greater demands from more complex vehicle systems, the requirement for power on electrically-operated systems around the world is growing. As society as a whole is consuming ever more energy, costs for base supply go up and all of this can easily equal substantially larger bills. The rail industry has long strived for greater efficiency through traction energy savings. While light rail and metro systems are amongst the most efficient modes of powered transport, where energy use per mile is much lower than other modes, about 80-90% of the energy consumed in real-world operations is for the vehicle’s traction supply. It is therefore in the interest of undertakings and operators to find ways to reduce energy consumption from their day-to-day activities – and one of the best ways of doing this is by lowering the demand from the vehicles. Innovation through collaboration A presentation from the University of Birmingham on an innovative modelling programme for light rail energy usage at the 2016 UK Light Rail Conference led to a valuable conversation between the presenters and Trevor Dowens of technical consultancy Ricardo Rail. Trevor Dowens, Principal Consultant in Ricardo Rail’s Operational Consulting division, explains the background: “After some years of looking for a suitable model that could help inform driver training processes, we met Dr Stuart Hillmansen and his colleague Dr Rob Ellis...
Dallas: The US urban rail pathfinder

Dallas: The US urban rail pathfinder

The growth of urban rail across the Dallas Metroplex continues at an astonishing rate. In the 18 months since TAUT last visited, all modes of rail-based public transport have seen significant extensions, including DART’s Blue light rail line, the Dallas Streetcar and the McKinney Avenue heritage trolley (M-Line). But the ambition doesn’t stop there. There are two planned commuter rail routes linking both ends of the metroplex to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) either in the construction or planning phases. With the downtown LRT corridor being close to capacity at peak periods, a second partly-underground city crossing }(D2) is the next big light rail expansion – this project promises to be transformational. With all this going on a little background may be helpful for the uninitiated. Dallas-Fort Worth is the fourth-largest conurbation in the USA, with a population approaching ten million – and growing rapidly. Located in the north-east of the State of Texas, it is a hub for both north-south and east-west links by all modes. The metroplex includes a number of smaller cities, such as Grand Prairie, Arlington, Irving, Plano, Richardson and Garland, all of which are also growing. DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) was created in 1983 to provide transport services in the east of the area, the boundary being roughly from DFW southwards. A total of 13 cities subscribe via local sales taxes; service is not provided in those cities that do not subscribe to DART. West of DFW, public transport is largely the responsibility of the Fort Worth T. Presently the T operates buses only, but it too is moving into rail-based services...
Catching up in Northern China

Catching up in Northern China

Tianjin is often known as as the ‘port of Beijing’, being 130km (80 miles) from the Chinese capital and housing a large and economically significant port on the Yellow Sea’s Bohai Gulf, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. As the gateway to northern China, the city has also long been an important industrial hub, supported by the central government in Beijing until the 1980s. With the nation’s economic opening under the administration of Deng Xiaoping, the focus shifted to cities in southern China and along the east coast. Only after the previous President Hu Jintao and his government decided to further promote Tianjin and establish a new financial hub in the ‘Binhai New Development Area’, has the city’s development gathered momentum again. Tianjin is one of four ‘direct-controlled municipalities’, meaning it does not belong to any province (although it maintains the same rank) and is instead under the direct adminstration of China’s central government. Its population is reported as 15.5 million, but this requires consideration of Chinese administrative structures. The urban core, with its four suburbs, has a population of around 6.9 million, with other residents living in counties, towns or cities which belong to the municipality – for example, the Wuqing district bordering Beijing has some 900 000 inhabitants of his own. Beyond the core, the focus for urban development is the Binhai New Area; Binhai is located at the easternmost edge of Tianjin, while Yujiapu is the location for the planned ‘Financial Hub’ some 50km (30 miles) away from Tianjin’s downtown core. Accordingly, Tianjin and Binhai could easily be seen as two separate cities. Since the...
Electrifying the Limmittalbahn

Electrifying the Limmittalbahn

On 28 August, the ground-breaking ceremony took place for the new Limmattalbahn tram route linking the growing urban conurbations in the Limmattal Valley, stretching north-west of Zurich. Most of the population and commercial growth the nation’s largest city has been in the Limmattal area and this growth has put pressure on existing infrastructure, which created a need for a truly multimodal transport solution to link existing transport and facilitate further growth. The new tramline links with existing S-Bahn metro services with buses, local and long-distance trains as well as airports. Additionally, there has been an emphasis on active transport – such as walking and cycling – incorporated into the design. The project was originally conceived in 2010 with planning commencing in 2012. Formal approval was given in 2014, which allowed the tender process and design to commence. As the Limmittalbahn passes through urban areas served by different regional governments, the planning and design were unusually complex and a key consideration has been to minimise impact to the environment through noise, vibration and visual aesthetics. The electrification system is therefore a critical element of the new line. The designers and planners proposed a sleek, contemporary network to the project team to fulfil the forward-looking aspirations of the region. This design ethos applied to the stations and bridges, as well as the electrification system, to create a comprehensive modern look. Furrer+Frey was chosen to design and build the electrification system for several reasons, with the main advantage being over 90 years of international experience in providing electrification development for tramways and light rail systems. Furrer+Frey have a significant depth of experience...
OLE Design Principles

OLE Design Principles

Since the 1880s, tramways have made use of overhead contact wires to supply them with their lifeblood – electricity. Since the earliest German trials and the subsequent work of US pioneer Frank Sprague that need has remained the same. Yet while trolley poles have, almost universally, given way to pantographs, a reliable, uninterrupted flow of electric power from the lineside substation to the moving tram remains the key to mobility. The most popular method of tramway and light rail electrification is to employ an energised contact wire suspended along the line of the tramway onto which a pantograph mounted on the roof of the vehicle is pressed. This contact is a sliding surface, with a force of around 100 newtons (10.5kg/22lb) and a tramcar speed of up to 80km/h (50mph). The power circuit of any direct current-supplied rail system has six fundamental elements: the substations, which supply direct current at the line’s designated nominal voltage (normally 600V or 750V); the positive conductor (the overhead line); the positive distribution network; the load (the vehicle); the negative conductor (the rails, through which the current is returned to the substations); and the negative distribution network. In most cases the rails are bonded together at regular intervals, and bonded or welded at joints, to provide as low a resistance path as possible for the return current. The past decade has seen massive advances in traction supplies that allow the removal of the overhead line – such as onboard energy storage, magnetic or inductive pickup or switched third rail systems. While these technologies are now relatively well-developed and proven in many cities, they are...