Furrer+Frey Opbrid Charging Stations for Battery Trains

Since 2009, Furrer+Frey has developed a multi-modal ultra high power charging station for battery-powered vehicles that is already radically changing the way traction power is delivered to road and rail vehicles. In particular, the Furrer+Frey Railbaar system targets existing low traffic diesel traction routes as well as new light rail and tram projects. The technology applies to battery powered trams and  trains (Railbaar), buses (Busbaar) and trucks (Trukbaar) with a design rooted in proven Swiss electric rail technology already successfully deployed by Furrer+Frey across Europe and the world.

The railway industry has utilised electrification for improved efficiency and reliability, and now as part of a wider sustainable mobility solution using electricity from renewable sources. However, the initial high capital investment for standard Overhead Line Equipment (OLE) has always been a problem for low volume lines, and diesel traction remains common not only on rural and low-traffic sub-urban routes but also for city transport.

Furrer+Frey’s RailBaar  bridges this gap by providing ultra-high power charging infrastructure for battery powered trains, trams and light rail. On-board batteries and high power charging stations eradicate the need for overhead lines by expanding the scope and range of battery powered trains. This innovation is a game changer which dramatically reduces the costs of electrification, and makes feasible many electrification projects that were considered too costly in the past

For example, a good candidate for battery trains is the Ormskirk to Preston line near Liverpool England. This line is a 20 mile stretch of unelectrified track that connects two electrified systems. A few old diesel locomotives provide an infrequent hourly yet popular service feeding into the Liverpool electric metro system. A local community group has been requesting electrification for years, but Network Rail considers the investment in OLE to be cost prohibitive for such a low frequency service. Estimates for full OLE electrification run about 2 million pounds per mile, so 40 million pounds for this route. However, the incremental cost of electrification using battery trains that provide every 30 minute service is estimated to be about 10% of this cost, plus avoids the inconvenience of transferring from the diesel train to the electric metro system at Ormskirk.

Good candidates for battery rail lines are relatively short with infrequent service that are currently uneconomical to electrify using OLE. There are large numbers of these in the U.K., Denmark, the Netherlands, and other countries. Converting these lines to electricity using batteries and fast chargers is an economic way to provide a sustainable, fast, and reliable transportation service. Instead of replacing these lines with buses that are slow and subject to traffic jams, upgrading an old polluting diesel rail line to a battery electric line makes for a better and faster commute that is appreciated by everyone.

The technology also offers substantial potential savings compared with conventional overhead line electrification. The estimated cost of installing the mechanical and battery infrastructure along with two RailBaar charging stations on a prospective 20km installation is around a sixth of the similar cost of installing overhead electrification, excluding rolling stock upgrades. An existing diesel unit can be converted to a battery powered train at a much lower costs with a payback time of just over 3 years. In addition, by eliminating diesel engines or electric traction equipment, the weight of the train is dramatically reduced, improving performance and capacity. Long lifetime LTO batteries can last over to 10 years on 15-charge cycles per day.