Driving energy solutions

Global efforts to decarbonise transport are increasing demand for driver advice systems on trains which consistently deliver 10 per cent reductions in energy use.

In a world where conserving energy and reducing carbon emissions is crucial, both rail and technology play an essential role in delivering mobility efficiency benefits.

Playing a pivotal role in this space is Trapeze Group, part of the international transport technology company, Modaxo. Modaxo recently acquired the Australian business, TTG Transportation Technology, which pioneered 

Driving Advice Systems (DAS) and now its advancements, such as Connected Driving Advice Systems (C–DAS).

Rail Express recently spoke with Trapeze’s managing director – ANZ Rail, Ben Dvoracek, a rail technology leader who has spent much of his career providing technology solutions enhancing the sustainability of mobility, and TTG founder Dale Coleman. Coleman is seen by many as the father of C-DAS – now a special advisor to Trapeze.

Many rail experts understand that C-DAS technology not only saves energy, reduces carbon emissions, and provides performance improvements – it makes good commercial business sense.

As Dvoracek, observed, “Where people live, when, and how they travel is changing. Rail still represents the most efficient way to move goods and people in large numbers”.

“The importance of taking action to decarbonise the world has never been more significant,” he said.

Sustainability in rail is about being more energy-efficient, regardless of its source.

“There are proven solutions available now that will have an immediate, tangible impact on rail operators’ energy savings while improving the sustainable use of our rail infrastructure. ” Dvoracek said. 

In this regard, success has been achieved with the Trapeze DAS solution TTG Energymiser, an Australian-developed and award-winning technology that has been implemented globally. The technology has been installed on more than 8,000 train and driver applications across 80,000 km of track in 10 nations and four continents, and consistently delivers 10-12 per cent reductions in energy consumption when deployed on rail networks. 

An example of this is in New Zealand, where state-owned KiwiRail recorded a 13.5 per cent fuel reduction saving since the implementation of TTG Energymiser. Together with other sustainability efforts across their businesses, DAS has contributed to a total energy cost saving of more than NZD 2.8m every year. KiwiRail has reduced carbon emissions by saving around 17 million litres of diesel from being burnt into our atmosphere over five years.

Experienced locomotive engineer, Robin Simmons, was instrumental in the adoption of  TTG Energymiser for KiwiRail in 2014. Simmons was recently added to the Queen’s Birthday Honours List and is a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the rail industry. Reflecting on his work with TTG, Simmons noted the rail industry in NZ is competitive with road transport, and the difference between profit and loss can come down to the cost of a litre of fuel.  

Simmons admits he wasn’t all that keen to start with, because the projected fuel savings seemed “too good to be true”.

“However, I eventually agreed to help, provided I was permitted to evaluate the product without anyone trying to influence me, or push me in any particular direction. TTG suggested that we should expect to reduce our fuel consumption by three to five per cent annually. However, initial testing showed this was higher, and lead to about ten per cent savings on energy year on year.” In 2016, following implementation of DAS, KiwiRail won the prestigious Deloitte Energy Excellence award, based on the greenhouse gas reductions and fuel savings achieved.

BENEFITS FOR ALL RAIL TYPES

The TTG C-DAS technology is in production, providing energy savings and performance improvements on many rail types. These range from enormous heavy haul trains to high-speed electric commuter trains, and  the benefits appear to hold true with trams and light rail.

“We are performing a trial on a light rail system right now; we have partnered with an organisation in Australia that recognises the advantage C-DAS provides in improving performance and energy optimisation on light rail and the tram network,” Dvoracek said.

“We are starting to observe positive test results, so we think those discussions will continue and evolve to benefit other tram operators.”

European expansion

Growth in the uptake of sustainability initiatives and technology is occurring in Europe, where the EU and national governments are de-carbonising transport.

Close cooperation is underway with French rail giant, SNCF, which uses three per cent of all electricity consumed in France. SNCF operates the signature high-speed service, the TGV, and installed TTG Energymiser on all TGV trains to achieve energy consumption savings of up to ten per cent. Current energy expenditure directly related to TGV trains is around €200 million annually, from an overall SNCF energy budget of €1.3 billion. When TTG Energymiser is fully rolled out to the entire fleet, SNCF expects to increase savings, while reducing their electricity bill and achieving significant greenhouse gas reductions.

Coleman said there had been positive signs from governments around sustainability targets in the early days, and policy changes helped in the uptake of new technologies and taking advantage of their benefits.

Technologies such as C-DAS  can encounter barriers to being widely adopted, in the form of government regulations and conditions.

Europe has been active, however, and has set expectations around having C-DAS technology as a part of their operations and rollingstock tenders. Rail operators are required to utilise a system that is going to improve performance and save costs but add to the economic use of the infrastructure authorities are pushing for.

The NZ government’s commitment to the Paris Agreement is also worth noting. As part of that agreement, KiwiRail has committed to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.”

As highlighted by Simmons, “most people have an opinion on climate change; some agree, and some do not”.

“However, the evidence is compelling when you see the bushfires and flooding,” he said.

The role of research

Dale Coleman aligns the success in DAS to academic partnerships, particularly with the University of South Australia (Uni SA) and their senior researchers Professor Ian Milroy and Professor Peter Pudney.

The relationship with the University of South Australia dates back more than 25 years and Coleman said it has been crucial.

“It is the fundamental reason we are where we are today, because of the really clever people at Uni SA who were thinking about these issues in the 1980s,” he said.

“I happened to be passionate about rail efficiency and the opportunities for energy efficiency a long time ago myself, and we partnered with Uni SA on the mathematics that would allow that to be realised.”

Coleman, who believes Australia can invest more in research and development, says working with the university is “a really important aspect of what we have done, and we think it will continue to be so”.

“We are proud to have worked with them and to have helped support clever Australians,” he said.

Trapeze received the Innovations Connections Grant from the Commonwealth government in April and has applied for the Linkage Projects Grant from the Australian Research Council with a view to secure three years of research and development for new innovations in energy optimisations in railways.

Energy trends

Coleman said energy efficiency and carbon emissions reductions would remain a crucial theme, even with newer and cleaner fuel.

He notes hydrogen is expensive to make, so using less of it is still going to make good business sense. A similar theme applies to battery technology.

 “Creating efficiencies and using less energy makes sense regardless of the primary source. We know that to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and meet the ambitious goals defined by many nations, it won’t be just one initiative that solves the problem. It will be a battle on many fronts, and we need to do all that we can.”

The DAS solution not only supports this endeavour but provides significant cost savings – a win: win for rail operators and the environment.

Autonomous trains

Does C-DAS technology represent a trend towards full automation? DAS and C-DAS technologies are totally consistent with autonomous train operation.

“The four things driving the rail industry to meet the demands being placed on it are, automation, real-time digital connectivity, energy efficiency and sustainability,” Coleman said. “C-DAS is a key part of the technology roadmap that supports a fully digital railway that meets the performance customers expect and the sustainability society demands.”

Trapeze is working with several operators and Tier 1 suppliers globally, to ensure C-DAS is developed as a system of systems and can seamlessly integrate into current and future digital rail systems.

“We are working with manufacturers as we speak, so C-DAS will find its way, as we see it, right through to full automation,” Coleman said.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Dvoracek said Trapeze “wants to make a difference” indicating a sense of global responsibility.

“I think we can make a difference to people’s lives and businesses just by making things more efficient, and that is what this technology does,” he said. 

“Looking at how important decarbonisation is globally, one thing is sure and that is the importance of rail for the future of our planet,” he said.

“We are very passionate about investing in the technology, people and partnerships that enable railway networks the world over to realise and maximise sustainability.”

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