While we’re busy engineering and undertaking structural assessment testing and monitoring for the railways themselves, other engineers are developing the next break through with train technology itself.
According to Business Green, new research into electric vehicles in regards to trains could soon see less waste energy and the potential to pass on savings to consumers.
The research focuses on capturing and retaining the energy lost in braking through friction – something that’s already common in electric cars, but which is far harder to harness from trains.
Electric trains do, however, lose large amounts of energy through braking and at present, there is nowhere for friction energy to be repurposed.
The TransEnergy project, led by the University of Sheffield and set to launch next week, aims to look at the ways in which storage batteries might prove a solution for this problem.
Two potential ideas explained in the article both surround the idea of storage batteries at train stations. The largest amount of braking a train will have to do regularly is at a station when it comes to a complete stop, and if the station could harness this energy and repurpose it to help start the train again, far less would be lost.
The study will also look at whether energy from friction could also be used to charge cars in the station carpark, in a future with far more electric cars.
We as civil engineering consultants are always interested in the effect that ideas like this will have on railway infrastructure, but it could just be of interest to every one of us, as it could help to save energy and money, saving us money on our train tickets in the process.