Can rail lead the way in sustainable transit? A look at the technology trends and themes that emerged from InnoTrans 2014.
Last week, Berlin hosted the 10th InnoTrans trade fair, the largest rail transport show in the world. Held every 2 years at Berlin Messe, a massive hall with an outdoor railyard that can accommodate the hundreds of rolling stock cars and thousands of exhibitors from around the world, the weeklong event showcases the newest technologies and trends in passenger and freight trains, trams, monorails and more.
Over the course of the show, several major themes emerged:
The rise of urbanization
Cities have always been an obvious target for rail infrastructure, and now we’re beginning to see the next phase: the rise of the megacity. From Asia to Latin America, urban areas are growing at nearly exponential rates, as is the need to create smart, viable mass transit systems for this population influx.
All eyes on sustainability
Of course, the systems and infrastructure required to move more people across cities and regions can’t just be smart and viable – it also needs to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. The rail industry is already regarded as a growth area for increasingly eco-conscious forms of transportation, and many of the show exhibitors specifically showcased these solutions.
ABB, of course, was no exception – as CEO Ulrich Speisshofer announced in his Next Level strategy presentation in London earlier this month, sustainable transportation is one of ABB’s key focus areas. Some of the main attractions at ABB’s InnoTrans booth included new compact converters and tractions transformers that are lighter and more energy-efficient than their predecessors, and our new ENVILINE system, which recovers energy from a train as it brakes. Similar to the way that regenerative braking works in EVs and hybrid cars, the ENVILINE can not only recoup power, but can store this electricity and feed it back to the train or to the grid – a groundbreaking development for energy storage in the rail industry. A brief explanation of how the ENVILINE system works can be found here:
Full speed ahead in Europe and beyond: “innovation is at the heart of competition”
And these aren’t just trends that ABB is tracking – international and industry groups are also paying attention. Philippe Citroën, Director General of UNIFE (the Association of the European Rail Industry), emphasized the need to dedicate more resources to continued research and development of the rail infrastructure, noting that “the EU has discovered that innovation is at the heart of competition…we have to face the new players in the market. As you see, Chinese and Japanese companies are spending a lot of money in terms of research and it is absolutely urgent for us to continue to be a leader in terms of innovation and research. That is why the [European] Commission increased the money for rail. That’s why it is important for all the companies who are at the leading part of technology innovation to be there.”
Update: watch our video coverage of InnoTrans 2014, including commentary from ABB’s Berhard Jucker and JeanLuc Favre, as well UNIFE’s Philippe Citroën: