In Europe, approximately half of the continent’s trains are electric. However, a new regenerative braking system developed by Tognum daughter MTU could soon see all rail vehicles as hybrids. The system is being trialled in Germany where the world’s first hybrid train now runs between Aschaffenburg and Miltenberg. As the 37 km long route has 14 stops, it is very easy for the braking system to recharge the train’s batteries with power. If the system proves to be a success, it is then hoped that all the trains, whether they run on diesel or electric motors, will become hybrids.
Of course, in addition to the system’s efficiency, there are also other factors to consider, such as capital investment and whether the system can stand up to the daily rigors that many trains go through. It is because of this the hybrid train concept is expected to for now be limited to shunting locomotives that have high energy losses.
The German train, a Siemens Desiro Classic VT 642 locomotive, which is now the first hybrid in the world, was originally diesel powered with two 275 kilowatt engines. However, once the braking system, consisting of two 315 kilowatt-rated hybrid power packs and batteries, was installed, the vehicle saw a 25% reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
In a statement, State Secretary Bomba said: “We need new mobility and vehicle concepts for an environmental and climate friendly future. And playing a big part here will be the corresponding alternative drives. The Federal Ministry of Transport is thus funding a whole host of projects nationwide for the transport of people and goods on both road and rail. Once the hybrid system has established itself and is ready for series production, hundreds of these power cars could be converted to diesel-electric drive with energy storage in Germany, thus contributing to the reduction of harmful greenhouse gases and lowering energy costs.”