Train Power: How Harnessing Energy from Trains Can Help Run Cities

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19th July, 2019

A train isn’t just for commuting – it’s also a widely untapped source of potential power. One little-known fact? The motor that propels a train can be used to generate energy when the rail vehicle is slowing down or stopping – which can then be transformed into electricity for use elsewhere. Mitsubishi Electric has developed advanced equipment that taps into this so-called "regenerative power", enabling the energy to be used to help other trains speed up or even provide power to station buildings.

Purposeful Power

As concern over the direction of the global environment grows rapidly each day, it is becoming increasingly important to accelerate the evolution of infrastructure that does not bear a significant environmental footprint. Railway systems, a highly efficient mode of transport and common the world over, are a prime example. Since the company was founded in 1921, Mitsubishi Electric has been actively involved in transportation infrastructure, and its numerous achievements over the past century have brought about tremendous advances in safety, efficiency, comfort, and energy use.

One way to improve the energy efficiency of a system is to capitalize on the design of the system itself and maximize the resources within. Mitsubishi Electric has done just that with its Advanced Power Technology for Trains — by effectively harnessing and sharing energy generated by trains, the Japanese firm has succeeded in greatly reducing the massive energy requirements of modern-day railway systems.

Energy Efficient

A key component of the Advanced Power Technology for Trains is Mitsubishi Electric’s proprietary regenerative braking system. When a train is slowing down or coming to a stop, its motor begins operating in reverse, generating kinetic energy. Thanks to the traction inverter, this kinetic energy can be harnessed by transforming it into electrical energy. This is then sent through the overhead lines and can be used not only by other trains in the network when they need to speed up, but in the station building as well.

Power that in the past had simply been discharged as heat energy without being used can now be effectively reused, making railway system operation significantly more environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

Ensuring a Better Future for Railway Systems

To make the fullest possible use of the newly harnessed electrical power, Mitsubishi Electric developed the Station Energy Saving Inverter, or S-EIV, which features compact, lightweight, and weather-resistant construction that makes installation possible just about anywhere. S-EIV takes the regenerative power not used by other trains and channels it to electrical equipment located in station buildings, providing power essential for lighting, air conditioning, escalators, and more. And Mitsubishi Electric’s optimal power supply control system ascertains the operational status of rail cars in real time using information and communications technology (ICT). In tandem with a management system, the technology effectively minimizes energy usage both in trains and stations.

Environmentally friendly, energy-efficient transport will only continue to grow in importance. And there’s no one better suited than Mitsubishi Electric — with its rich history and expansive portfolio of transportation-related products, systems, and technologies—to take the lead in driving the evolution of systems that will transport us to the sustainable society we all envision.

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