On track to the future

A second life for your fleet

During the 1980s the integration of power electronics and computer control systems within trains was on the increase. The new systems brought significant improvements in train performance, energy efficiency and passenger comfort. Replacing complicated electro-mechanical components like DC motors with inverter fed induction motors resulted in reduced maintenance schedules.

However, these new electronic systems were using components produced for industrial or even consumer applications, which didn’t take into account the longer running times and arduous operating conditions of traction vehicles. Most of these electronic components were designed for a short product life cycle of just a few years, while railcar bodies are designed to be in use for several decades. With that the rail industry faced a serious challenge with aging electronics and the need for obsolescence management.

Today, we are seeing an increasing demand for mid-life overhauls of electric traction systems. For the operator, a mid-life retrofit provides the opportunity to increase reliability and solve obsolescence issues. In addition, it is also a chance to update the functionality of the train. Typical improvements include introducing redundancy for vital systems, energy efficiency, maintainability, safety as well as adapting to today’s high customer expectations for traveling comfort, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), automatic doors, passenger information systems, video surveillance systems or closed-system toilets.

In our experience, there is no single solution that fits all. Each potential retrofit requires a careful assessment in close cooperation with the railway operator to determine which traction chain components are to be kept, upgraded or replaced.

In order to find the best solution, we recommend the following:

• The scope of the retrofit should get the best value from the existing system, ensuring that obsolete and non-reliable components are identified and replaced while components expected to have good reliability over the remaining train life should remain. New components should be carefully adapted to fit the demands of the existing systems. For example, a motor friendly three-level inverter will maximize the old motor’s efficiency, reduce the operating temperature and extend its life time.

• High availability must be reached by using proven components and solutions as well as the application of redundancy, where feasible. Standardized, high volume components, from different sources, should be used to maximize the availability of spare parts.

• Easy accessibility and maintainability of components are key not only regarding later life cycle costs (LLC) but also for a streamlined retrofit process. Energy efficiency has a major impact on the total LCC. Consideration must be given to the entire electrical systems during operation as well as stopping in stations and during maintenance.

• The functionality should suit the needs and expectations of all the users in the best possible way.

If you want to learn more about ABB’s expertise in traction chain solutions and how we can help to get your fleet on track to the future, please contact us or visit us at InnoTrans in Berlin, September 20 to 23, 2016 (ABB at InnoTrans, Stand 310, hall 9). Among other highlights, ABB is presenting the new traction converter for the electrical locomotive class Re460 of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). Our experts look forward to meeting you.

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About the author

Edgar Keller

I’m the General Manager of ABB’s global Transportation product group and have been working for more than 25 years in the field of power electronics for railways and urban transport. The railway market is a very exciting and future-oriented business and rail transport is the right answer to today’s environmental challenges and people’s expectations on sustainable mobility. ABB can contribute a lot in this segment and I’m looking forward to further support our customers with highly reliable and energy efficient products and solutions.
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