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Great post.

There's two things I wanted your take on:

1:

Bombardier `Green Train' Uses 20-30% Less Fuel Than Other Trains, Sets Swedish Speed Record : TreeHugger

Kitted out with ECO4 energy efficiency gadgetry, such as Bombardier's MITRAC Permanent Magnet Motor and an assistance system which allows the driver to monitor speed and traction force, this new train not only set a new Swedish speed record (295 km/h; 183 mph) but consumes 20-30% less energy than your average train.

A Faster, Yet Smoother Trip
Bombardier also says that the train has been equipped with "track-friendly bogies" which allow for increased running stability and less wheel wear on curved tracks. Passenger comfort has not been neglected, with an active lateral suspension system, for a more stable train travel experience.

So how much of that is really new, and what are we seeing elsewhere?

2:

They're finally building the Fehmarnbelt, though it should be finished by 2020, earliest. Some environmentalists (NABU - birds/nature protection group) apparently oppose it, which I don't really understand.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 11:59:34 AM EST
  1. I'm not sure what the comparison is for "20-30% less energy than your average train", but I will look. On the quick: the permament magnet synchronous motor is indeed the Next Best Thing; even lighter and even closer to 100% efficiency than an asynchronous motor. It is really cutting-edge: Alstom introduced it in the prototypes (including the middle cars of the world record train) leading up to the AGV, while Japanese manufacturers tried it in the Fastech-360 trains; when the motor is run in inverse as generator, that's what wind turbines use, and a few years ago, Siemens was first to tinker with permanent magnet wind turbine generators. The energy-saving aspect of traction force monitoring (which is not new: say the Taurus locos have it) evade me, unless it's that the software visually proposes an optimum to the driver.

  2. You shot down a future diary idea of mine :-) There are three connected issues there. One was the decision for a bridge instead of the more bird-protecting tunnel. The second was the most likely reason for that: the real priority is car traffic, not train traffic. For train traffic, the addition of the new link makes little sense unless there are connecting high-speed lines: the just one decade old Great Belt bridge/tunnel connection has enough capacity on an only slightly longer route. So I tend to agree with NABU: as it is projected now, this is not a necessary project.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 12:34:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
1) OK. Based on the press release, the 20-30% reduction seems a more hazy goal defined by the Swedish operator. I couldn't find much about this new driver assistance system, which is said to contribute 15% allp by itself, but I hope I'll see it demonstrated at the Innotrans in Berlin in 2-3 weeks. I guess it's about efficient acceleration-deceleration, in other words, suggesting to every driver what experienced drivers do by themselves (if they care). The press release also lists other improvements, stuff you can't quantify with flashy numbers, but something worthwhile with which ABB->ADtranz->Bombardier engineers tinkered with for some time - I think those are worth the money.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 12:49:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2) In German media, suggestions appeared that the project may be pushed only to keep the engineers and workers and firms who built the Great Belt and the Øresund Bridges employed. I don't know how many facts and how much bad faith was behind them (and JakeS has to tell us if similar suggestions appeared in Danish media).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 12:54:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the Danish side is contributing the vast majority of the money. So that could be true.

I am of course hoping that the bridge will eventually be used for a highspeed service to Copenhagen... the value of having a highway is going to decline at any rate come 2020.

As for the effect on birds, I don't know, but I think that can be largely mitigated by some preventative measures.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 01:24:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Denmark seems a uniquely bad terrain for high-speed development:
  • there is no significant domestic traffic to be expected along the route,
  • in a country where Germany is still the Bogeyman, the Big Bad Scary Neighbour who could eat up and assimilate Us All, a line essentially serving Hamburg is just too symbolic in the wrong way,
  • there is the history of how the single higher-speed section was bunged in the time of both Rasmussens,
  • the current rail liberalisation believers don't want to invest.

But one can hope. Maybe a future European Commission will be the key.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:21:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way. JakeS always lamented the low electrification of the Danish network, and I always forgot to tell an anecdote: at a conference in Hungary, a guy from Denmark was explaining to a group of us in know-it-all mode that according to their calculations, diesels are now more cost-efficient than electrics. (This was a few years ago, before the oil price explosion.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:27:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm learning more about different energy structures, working with a new client. Their product is large reciprocating engines used in decentralized power generation - to avoid the horrific transmission loss across grids. The engines use oil, biofuel, biodiesel. They are windchasers - providing back up systems to wind farms especially. Unlike most other back up generation systems, they can be up to full power in 10 minutes.

And associated, as they mostly are, with tri-generation systems (electricity, heat and cooling plants) they can get over 92 % of the energy out of oil. They also cost little when not working - no fuel, just a maintenance crew.

But their point about optimization is worth considering. With fuel efficiency, fuel flexibility and the scalability of plants (the building housing the engines is basic industrial on a concrete floor) - they offer an interim gray solution. We cannot replace infrastructure overnight. Greater fuel efficiency can cut down demand for carbon fuels.

The answer, to me, is that the only way we are going to solve this problem, is to look at the entire energy infrastructure as well as working on domestic and industrial demand. That really requires consensus economies that are capable of national effort and national sacrifice - whether that means putting up with a view of a windfarm, videoconferencing, or outlawing plasma TVs.

The question is then which are the consensus economies that can do this without becoming command economies. The USA is not a consensus economy - it is the polar opposite. The Nordics do consensus quite well, and with most corporate CEOS coming from engineering backgrounds - they actually understand the technical problems. And there is a social cohesion. But Finland for example is relying almost totally on nuclear, and the whole energy picture is getting less attention.

But what about the rest of Europe? Which countries could look at themselves, their energy problem, and the global context, and come up with innovative solutions? I'd like to think there are quite a few, but I don't know.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:54:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It should be part of a Rotterdam-Amsterdam-Hamburg-Copenhagen(-Stockholm) service, which we talked about ages ago. The project could be made possible under a next round of Trans European Networks projects. Officially, the bridge will not be finished before 2018 (which makes 2020 optimistic), so there is plenty of time for the rest of the construction.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:59:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Still, "Copenhagen will be a satellite town of Hamburg", the rags might say...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 03:05:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I would still like to see that diary ;-)
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 01:25:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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