Power supplies for railway applications: On the rails to 2020

March 12, 2018 // By Patrick Le Fèvre
In a study presented at the international rail exhibition, Innotrans 2016 in Berlin, the European Rail Industry summarized the state of the business as representing a market size estimated to reach 185 billion Euro by 2020. For sure, the power supplies share of that amount is marginal compared to heavy rolling stock or infrastructure. Though without power supplies, nothing would be possible and so power designers are actively engaged in railway modernization.

As we approach the next edition of Innotrans, it is both relevant and interesting to take a minute to consider the many challenges that power supply manufacturers are facing in their quest to make railways safer, coupled with the highest service levels for passengers.

 

From conservative to progressive

For decades, the railway sector has been an important area for the power supply industry to develop very specific power solutions to meet the requirements of this complex market. The sector consists of three main categories: new equipment, modernization, and the maintenance and upgrading of equipment that entered service 10 years ago or more. Each of these categories represents particular demands on the part of the developer and requires skills specific to each case. Although the railway sector is very conservative and priority is given to reliability and robustness, the new generation of “digital technology trained” engineers involved in the development of new rail systems are increasingly integrating digital control and encouraging the implementation of energy-efficient topologies such as the Gallium Nitride transistors. In the railway sector this approach is quite new, requiring more extensive qualification work during product development, bringing new constraints for engineers responsible for guaranteeing durable solutions for the next twenty years. This is a very interesting aspect for design engineers and a great opportunity to cooperate directly with the design offices of major railway customers.

 

From point-of-load to multi kilowatts - with compliance

The range of railway applications is very wide and consists of a large number of applications requiring simple proximity voltage regulators point-of-load (POL) to converters or inverters of several hundred kilowatts powering the motors of traction engines and other traction vehicles – see figure 1.


Fig. 1: The range of railway applications is very wide and consists of a large number of applications requiring simple proximity control point-of-load (POL) to converters or inverters of several hundred kilowatts powering the motors of traction engines and other traction vehicles.

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