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How Rail electrification can contribute to emissions reduction

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One such area is transportation which accounts for around 24%[i] of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, being 2nd most CO2 emitting sector after electricity and heat producers. Among all forms of transport, railway has the lowest emissions, which makes it the greenest means of transportation.

Considering the above, the railway must play a pivotal role in helping the cause and driving behavioral changes e.g., more commuters opting for trains for short journeys and more freight transported through rail network. To achieve this, the rail network needs high-performance traction using electricity as its energy source.  The argument supporting electrification of rail network couldn’t be more convincing – converting chemical energy i.e. diesel, into traction power provides limited operating range and tractive efforts.

Today’s high-speed trains, sub-urban trains and metro can collect electricity on the move from the overhead. Electric trains are generally three times[ii] more efficient than diesel trains, have lower running costs and higher acceleration rates. Most importantly they don’t need on-board power plants and on-board energy storage involving multiple inefficient energy conversions. Further, during braking, electric trains use regenerative braking and recover typically 20% of a train’s consumption, eliminating particulates emitted using brake pads. Putting all these together the benefits of electric trains significantly outweigh the costs and so a large-scale electrification programme is unavoidable in all major economies. Coupling this programme with green energy generation through wind or solar would propel the world much faster towards its decarbonisation goals. 

Governments are investing a big portion of their funds to make it possible for electric trains to travel on more areas of the rail network by electrifying railway lines where today only diesel trains can run on. This is a key part of the rail strategy as electrification will promote cleaner, more reliable travels and will help reduce the cost of running and maintaining the railway network.

Improved electrified services would reduce energy consumption (market studies predict a saving of 15-20% depending on the specific rail application[iii]) contributing to support the complex path towards the ambitious net-zero emission goal.

The technologies for electrification already exist, and there are no major technical barriers to their implementation; it is just a question of pushing the limits of the technical features already in place to offer an environmentally friendly product qualified for the main railway standards even under the most difficult conditions.

This is what we normally do when designing a new interconnect solution for the rail market.
To obtain a long-lasting, and reliable connector with low contact retention, as well as low resistance and insertion loss - all key features the allow us to say it is an environmentally friendly product - we have to:

  • Select rugged and appropriate product materials to withstand challenging applications.

  • Use proven technical characteristics of the product technology.

  • Qualify the product in compliance with the main international standards applied to the relevant market the product is designed or offered for.

The Intercompact Series responds to these requirements. The Intercompact connectors are an innovative solution for PCB to PCB and floating mounting rack and panel applications designed for the next generation of Electronic Control Units in high-speed trains. They are currently offered in both signal and Ethernet versions and are qualified to meet the requirements of the rail environments. The Series is compliant with the main European Railway standards (EN45545-2, NF F61030, EN50155:2017, STM-S-001ind.D and more) and with MIL-C-28748 and MIL-STD-202-301 standards and EIA and IEC standards for Contact Resistance and Environmental testing. The connector insulators are in Liquid Cristal Polymer material to provide an optimized insulation resistance for severe environment conditions. Combined with the superior performance of hyperboloid contact technology this translates into a product that can help the rail applications to reduce the energy consumption and to support efficiently the electrification of the rail network.

Smiths Interconnect offers a variety of different interconnect technologies to support the next generation of rail applications, including high power solutions, digitization of rolling stock with high data rate, batteries fitted to trains, all of which can play a key role in improving an environmentally friendly connectivity.

[i] Source: International Energy Agency (IEA)
[ii] Why Rail Electrification by Railway Industry Association
[iii] Transport Scotland Report

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