Tuesday, May 24, 2011

No. 280: Electric train? No, it is a battery train (May 25, 2011)

West Japan Railway Company started the plan to run a battery train operated only by lithium-ion batteries by 2020. The battery train charges the batteries from the feeding facilities near the station through the overhead wire when it makes a stop at the station. It has the regenerative braking system that allows the train to accelerate using the energy stored in the batteries and collect the generated energy from the motor when it decelerates. It can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and noises. In fact, it can conserve energy 10% more than the railway motor car using a diesel engine. The company will try batteries from several producers and make the battery train applicable toward 2020. It is estimated to cost more than 30 million yen to build a battery train, but mass production is expected to reduce the cost to one seventh. It is rather hard for a railway company to reduce fixed cost because train service needs lots of various types of equipment, but battery trains can contribute to the reduction of fixed cost through decreased oil consumption and lighter train body. In addition, it can eliminate overhead wires and electrification facilities on the ground. Railway Technical Research Institute has already worked on developing a battery streetcar, and East Japan Railway Company is running hybrid trains that carry both batteries and a diesel engine.

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