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“Let’s raise our ambitions for a cleaner, greener railway”. Those were the words of the UK’s Transport Minister Jo Johnson, in a major policy speech at the British Museum last February. By 2040, the Conservative MP announced he would like to see all diesel-only trains taken off the UK’s tracks. “If that seems like an ambitious goal, it should be and I make no apology for that,” he said.
While further electrification of the UK’s railway may sound like a welcome move, many will indeed be sceptical. In July last year, the government was forced to scrap a high-profile plan for electrifying railway lines in Wales, the Midlands and the North of England. A report in March by the National Audit Office blamed escalating and unanticipated costs for the cancellation.
Given how slow and painful attempts at introducing electrified trains and tracks can be, there remains an urgent need to find ways of saving energy and cutting emissions for the nearly 30% of the UK’s train fleet that is still powered entirely by diesel.
Getting rid of wasted energy
One way to achieve this is to prevent trains from wasting energy. In a 2010 study, Edinburgh-based Artemis Intelligent Power demonstrated that between 64%-73% of a train’s energy is lost through braking and transmission.
“There is a lot of energy that gets wasted in these areas,” says Alasdair Robertson, commercial director at Artemis. “Obviously you still have to stop the train but ideally you would find a way to recover that energy.”
Artemis’ own solution involves replacing hydraulic pumps used for power cooling fans and electricity generation with a new type of digital displacement pump that uses a piston machine to enable and disable cylinders in real time.
Combined with a highly efficient hydraulic transmission, the hydraulic accumulator allows trains to store energy during braking and then reuse this energy during acceleration.
Artemis estimates that the technology, which is currently being trialled with the train operator ScotRail, could save more than 9,000 litres of diesel per carriage, per year. If adopted across ScotRail’s fleet of class 170 trains, the company says it could cut CO₂ emissions by more than 4,000 tonnes.
“That is fuel that doesn’t have to be burnt and CO2 that is not released,” says Robertson. “Long term, if digital displacement technology is used throughout a train’s entire transmission, fuel use could be cut by up to 30%, which is quite frankly massive. As things stand the hydraulic pump was invented in something like 1893 and well over 100 years later you almost can’t tell the difference internally.”
Less noise, faster acceleration
There are other benefits too. Robertson says the company’s technology could, for example, be used to switch off a train’s engines when it is pulling into and out of stations, reducing noise pollution in surrounding areas.
“There are now quite a lot of questions over noise,” Robertson explains. “The trains that run on the TransPennine Express, for example, quite often pull out of stations on limited engine power to reduce noise, smoke and emissions in the station area. If you had a transmission that recovered energy and stored it in the hydraulic accumulators, you could run out of the station without having to turn the engine on.”
Robertson also predicts that the company’s technology could be used to increase a train’s acceleration.
“After six months and 100,000 miles of operation, the technology has firmly demonstrated its value.”
“We are led to believe that electric trains are slower when they are in mixed operation with diesel trains, because the diesel train acceleration can’t quite match the acceleration of the electric,” he says. “We think that with our hydraulic transmission technology we can run the diesel trains at the same frequency as the electric trains.”
Artemis was founded in 1994 with a view to commercialising advanced hydraulic machines first used in the wave power industry for different commercial applications. It was acquired by Mitsubishi in 2010 and today describes itself primarily as a “technology development” company.
“We invent and create the technology, do a lot of testing and then go out into the market and speak to the OEMs,” Robertson explains. “We know that we are never going to manufacture the technology itself because that is not our goal. Instead we have a model, where we licence our technology to global Tier 1 companies: they pay us a licence fee to make the machines and then sell it to the OEMs that we have identified.”
Inventions that work
For a company in the business of inventing technology, Robertson is, however, keen to emphasise that Artemis “does not just produce ideas and intellectual property”.
“We have always got an idea of what markets we are working on and who is going to buy the product at the end of the day,” he says. “We develop technology to a very high state of technological readiness, with supply chains that are already fairly well developed.”
This approach is evident in the company’s current collaboration with ScotRail, where it has installed a digital hydraulic pump in a standard diesel commuter train. Robertson says it is “the first installation of a digital displacement pump on an in-service train”. After six months and 100,000 miles of operation, the technology has firmly demonstrated its value, he adds.
“It has been very successful and very reliable and it is paving the way for the next stage: installing three pumps on the train and after that looking at full fleet roll out,” he says. “Ultimately we are dealing with a very old industry, that is not used to change. Our job is to shake that up and introduce new technology.”
The post Artemis: new tech cuts fuel emissions on trains appeared first on Railway Technology.
This article first appeared on www.railway-technology.com
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