Beat Guggisberg

On the right track with Energy Storage Systems

As part of the push to a more sustainable future, improving the energy efficiency of vehicles is crucial to reduce negative environmental and financial impacts. Beat Guggisberg, Head of Product Line Energy Storage Systems at ABB, explains how the BORDLINE® Energy Storage System (ESS) has the potential to dramatically increase efficiency while cutting costs in the rail and bus transport sectors.

Globally, transport accounts for approximately one-fifth of carbon dioxide emissions. It is well-known that public transport is more environmentally friendly than private vehicles, but even trains and buses have opportunities for improved energy efficiency. For example, even if electric power is available for train operation, infrastructure issues might mean that diesel power is still used. Or, in the case of buses using diesel motors, traffic jams result in decreased efficiency and increased pollution.

“With ESS you can run without diesel to reduce emissions and fossil fuel consumption.”

“In some crowded areas around cities they have installed overhead power lines up to 10 or 20 kilometers outside the city,” explains Beat Guggisberg, Head of Product Line Energy Storage Systems at ABB. “This means that either you have to use two different train types and the passengers have to change trains outside the city, or, more usually, the operator simply uses a diesel-powered train and runs it into the city! In this case, the overhead power lines in the city are useless. There are large possibilities to reduce emissions and fossil fuel consumption.”

One way to reduce these emissions is by using batteries. BORDLINE® ESS is a Lithium-ion based onboard energy storage system designed for use in road and railway vehicles. Although similar batteries have become more common in private cars, and devices such as laptops and mobile phones, the requirements for railway vehicles, for example, is quite different. For example, an electric train runs more hours in a year than an electric car does in its entire life.

Photo by Bernhard Eng, ABB.

“If we look at an electric car battery with a lifetime of approximately eight years, it will probably run for around 4,500 hours in total,” says Guggisberg. “Compare that to a train operating eighteen hours a day, or 6,500 hours a year, where you have performance requirements twenty times higher. That’s the main difference between these types of lithium ion batteries compared to standard electric cars.”

Reusing energy to reduce fuel consumption by up to 25%

The technology used in the BORDLINE® system is designed for high-performance applications. “Adding the system to a diesel engine in a train can reduce fuel consumption by twenty or twenty-five per cent because you can reuse the braking energy and you can operate the engine in an optimal area with much less emissions,” explains Guggisberg. “All the electrical systems in a train can use electrical regenerative braking very efficiently. Since you have extremely low rolling resistance you can recover a lot of the energy retained by the mass of the train. With energy storage, it’s even better because you can store it locally.”

Increasing performance and overall efficiency

On the other hand, the situation with public buses is a little bit different. “Trains have their own tracks, so they don’t get stuck in traffic,” he continues. “Getting stuck is very inefficient and makes it difficult to dimension the battery size and so you need also a smart charging system to really optimize the battery weight and reduce the overall environmental impact. If you are a bus operator you can lower fuel consumption and maintenance needs with ESS. Electric powered systems have much lower operating costs than diesel, perhaps around thirty or forty per cent less.”

Decreasing fossil fuel consumption is not only a question of which engine to use, however. It is one piece of a puzzle that involves infrastructure planning and the digitalization of transport networks. “The efficient use of energy is a very important topic for all applications, and BORDLINE® ESS can help to improve it, not only for road and rail traffic but also marine traffic and stationary applications like cable cars,” Guggisberg says. “Digitalization helps the operation of these systems. Traffic is a huge contributor to energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and with our ABB products we can support the efficient use of energy.” In addition to railways and buses, BORDLINE® ESS is also designed for use in trolleybuses, off-road vehicles, eTrucks, and maintenance vehicles.

Concerning future opportunities, Guggisberg points out that although one hundred per cent efficiency is impossible due to physics, advances in technology will increase performance and overall efficiency. “The big topic of battery energy storage is still the energy density. Because the energy density of batteries is lower than that of fossil fuels, the overall efficiency of a drive system is of even higher importance, otherwise the required operating range will not be reached,” he remarks. If electric batteries can be reduced to a fraction of their current size, it will have a huge effect in terms of efficiency and capacity.

“I want to make sure that my grandchildren will have a good world to live in fifty years from now.”

Advancing the causes of sustainability and energy efficiency is something that we can all get behind. For Guggisberg, his work has a deeper impact. “For me personally, the reduction of environmental impact is very important,” he concludes. “I want to make sure that my grandchildren will have a good world to live in fifty years from now.”

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