Gallery: Vycon Plans to Tap Speeding Subway Trains for Immense Amounts ...


London, New York, Paris – what do they all have in common? Apart from being among the world’s most energy-hungry cities, they all have underground subway systems. These public transport systems help millions of people each day to get to and from work, but what if they could also be used to help power these metropolises? Vycon Energy, who makes industrial flywheels, believes that they can tap the immense amount of kinetic energy carried by moving subway trains to subsidize city power systems. Not only would this reduce emissions, but it would also help to avoid peak power emergencies.

Vycon’s technology works in a similiar way to regenerative braking. Moving trains carry a lot of kinetic energy, and the company believes they can harness this energy whenever a train slows down at a station. By connecting a flywheel to the rail system, Vycon believes that the kinetic energy could be converted to electrical power. This electricity could then be used to get the train moving again – it is a system that has had been used with great success in hybrid vehicles. However trains would certainly generate a lot more energy then a Prius.

According to Green Tech Media, a 10-car subway train in New York’s system requires a jolt of three to four megawatts of power for 30 seconds to get up to cruising speed. That’s enough energy to power 1,300 average U.S. homes. The power usage is so great that train departures are staggered in order to accomdate the availability of power. Despite this, stations can still experience power drops. “Almost every rail company in the U.S. has a station where voltage sag is a problem,” said Louis Romo, vice president of sales at Vycon.

Vycon’s plan would see a decelerating subway train generate up to four megawatts of energy. This power would be sent to the company’s Regen flywheels, which would be housed at the station. It would then be sent to the train’s electric motor via the electric third rail.

“We can put back 90 percent of what we capture,” he said. “When the train wants to leave, you just use the energy you created.” If the energy that trains create can be re-used to power them in all these major cities, just think how much energy can be saved worldwide.

+ Vycon Energy

Via Green Tech Media

Photos © trevonhaywood2011


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  1. _sam_ September 5, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Re gravity braking – this is true (though I’m not sure it’s implemented on all lines) and I have a feeling they also have that on the Paris Metro and other systems.

    But in addition, according to a quick Google, it appears that tube trains manufactured since 1992 do also in fact have regenerative braking.

    I’m sure this is true for most other systems using rolling stock less than 20 years old, so it kind of seems like this is a non-product (‘Our incredible new product allows you to do something you’ve been doing for the past 20 years!’), unless there is some genuine benefit over current regenerative braking systems.

    (And btw – not an expert on the details but yes I think they do put the power back directly on the third rail where another train can use it, rather than needing to use batteries. So it should be pretty efficient.)

  2. Quinny September 5, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Why not just give the trains regenerative braking and a small battery to put this power into? (or even have them put it back into the grid via the 3rd rail, but this could be more complex…)

    You’d need to put power back in to the train again when it is going to accelerate anyway, why not store the power on board?

  3. RichardNeill September 4, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    The London Underground has had a “regenerative braking” system ever since it was built by the Victorians 100+ years ago. Rather than use electrical storage, it uses gravity: the tracks slope downwards away from stations, and then upwards as the train decelerates into the station!

  4. msyin September 3, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    The best thing would be to try it out on a shuttle train in NYC and do some real world research after they work out the technical details as to how to install the system and send the energy back into the third rail. This sites shows that there is more than just one way to create, use and store energy so I would love to see the very busy mega cities like NYC try something that would help their systems.

  5. alexgh September 3, 2011 at 12:41 am

    @Ennet the flywheel isn’t located on the train itself. It’s meant to store the energy when the train decelerates and the flywheel then outputs the stored energy when the train leaves.

  6. Ennet September 2, 2011 at 11:14 am

    I’ve just read two articles on “tapping power” from highways or trains as if that could magically be used to power something else (like a city). During acceleration and cruise the train (or car) will use power and there is no way you can extract any amount of power without having to input even more power (since nothing is 100% efficient).

    Regenerative systems can only be used when the train (or car) is braking; instead of turing kinetic energy into heat (through mechanical brakes) you can use it to spin up a fly wheel or generate electric power. That will reduce the total energy consumption but in the end the train (or car) will always _consume_ energy.

    A flywheel may be useful in a car where it is difficult to handle the massive amounts of energy that is generated when braking. However, for trains, it doesn’t make sense; it’s much simpler to use the electric motors as generators when breaking and simply feed the power back into the power grid. This is already quite common, at least in European trains and subways.

  7. charli September 1, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    This is a great idea, I don’t know why they haven’t done this sooner. That said, 90% efficiency seems a bit optimistic for a system like this. Also, the trains use a lot more energy thAn a prius. This site’s journalism seems to be degenerating quickly. First the vacant greenwashing, then bias moved in, and now grammatical errors are rearing their ugly heads…

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