The ScotRail train you are sitting on may not look or feel any different – but it could be using a radical new hydraulic technology which will cut the use of diesel on our trains.
Earlier this month ScotRail teamed up with Artemis Intelligent Power to test a standard commuter train fitted with a new type of digital hydraulic pump.
And already the specially-equipped ScotRail class 170 Turbostar is being put through its paces on passenger routes including Glasgow-Edinburgh and Perth-Inverness.
The Edinburgh tech firm’s bosses estimate their technology will save over 9,000 litres of diesel per carriage per year, helping train firms cut their carbon emissions. The project is being part-funded by RSSB, the independent rail body.
If adopted Scotland-wide across ScotRail’s fleet of class 170 trains, it would reduce the firm’s annual CO₂ emissions by more than four thousand tonnes, and fuel use by more than 1.5 million litres.
They believe the technology has the potential to be used in diesel trains across the UK and around the world.
“It is enormously expensive to electrify our train lines and it is just not practical in many rural locations in Scotland and globally,” explains Artemis Managing Director Dr Niall Caldwell.
“Diesel will be with us for many decades to come, so we have focussed on a technology which can be readily adopted and make a big impact right now.
“Most modern diesel trains rely on a hydraulic unit to power each carriage’s cooling fans and generate electricity, which together use up around ten to 15 percent of the engine’s fuel,” Caldwell explains.
“At Artemis we have made a new type of digital hydraulic pump – which uses computer-controlled valves to switch the pump’s cylinders off when not needed. This means the pump is much more controllable and efficient, and can give significant fuel savings wherever it is used.”
For the test train, the project partners Artemis, ScotRail, RSSB and Meridian Generic Rail replaced the pump in a single carriage of a three-carriage train – and their lab tests predict the new machine will reduce fuel use by more than 9,000 litres per carriage per year. If adopted across the ScotRail fleet of class 170 Turbostars this would equate to more than 1.5 million litres of fuel saved each year.
The Edinburgh firm calls their technology ‘Digital Displacement’, and says it has massive potential wherever hydraulic systems are found – for example in diggers, buses, trucks and even renewable energy.
They calculate that if their digital technology were used throughout a train’s entire transmission – and not just the auxiliary systems – then overall fuel use could be cut by up to 30 percent.
The pumps are made in their factory at Loanhead, south of Edinburgh, where the firm employs more than 50 staff.
Their patented technology has already been used by Mitsubishi in their 7MW Sea Angel wind turbine – the world’s largest floating offshore wind turbine – and they think it will be adopted in other areas in the years ahead.
The ScotRail project will end early next year.
Tom Smith, Project Engineer for the ScotRail Alliance, said: “The installation of this new hydraulic pump is a great milestone in the development of sustainable technology, and a rail industry first.
“The Artemis pump has re-imagined the traditional mechanical control of pistons and has the potential to save over 9,000 litres of fuel per train carriage each year.
“Using technology to digitally control the pistons means we are able to consume fuel much more efficiently by only using it when needed, similar to turning the lights in the house off when they’re not being used.”
Hugh O’Neill, Head of Rolling Stock, RSSB, commented: “I welcome this important milestone of the Digital Displacement pump running on the live railway and look forward to seeing the results of this trial.”
It’s then hoped the fuel-saving technology can be utilised across Scotland – and potentially in trains worldwide.