LRT Without Overhead Wiring?

In the early days of this site, the rendering of a possible TTC LRV created by Matthew Blackett of Spacing was added. It wasn’t long before I received an email from someone asking how these LRVs received their power, as no overhead can be seen in the image. Naturally, I explained that the rendering was for the purpose of showing what an LRV might look like and the overhead power infrastructure was not shown to keep the image simple.

However, Matthew may have been a little ahead of the times. Recently, Bombardier has been testing its PRIMOVE Catenary-Free Technology. (Thanks to Josh in Australia and W.K. Lis for bringing this to my attention - also see this brochure)

This system is currently undergoing testing at Bombardier’s site in Bautzen, Germany.

¬†While I don’t believe that this system will be considered for any LRT implementations in the GTHA,¬† there are three concerns I would have if this were a possibility:

  1. Going with something that is new without a track record has caused us pains in the past. The testing in Bautzen might prove successful, but what happens when a heavy snowfall hits the GTHA? Think ICTS.
  2. Transferring a significant amount of power through induction requires a very strong magnetic field. How does this affect something sensitive to this? Pacemakers come to mind as a very serious issue, but there are others that are not life-threatening such as watches and electronics. We know how one cannot listen to an AM radio on board or close to a CLRV or ALRV that is accelerating or braking, but would the public accept the same sort of noise on their MP3 players? On the other hand, in the interest of energy efficiency, the system might very well concentrate the field to where it is needed and not have any noticeable leakage that could affect other things.
  3. The question of energy efficiency is my third point. How much energy is expended to get the power on-board using an induction system compared to overhead wiring? Bombardier’s material mentions its MITRAC system, which is basically a regenerative braking with storage system to recover energy during braking for reuse during acceleration. Perhaps this system will make up for energy lost in the PRIMOVE system, or perhaps it will provide a net gain.

2 Responses to “LRT Without Overhead Wiring?”

  1. Justin Bernard Says:

    Actually Alstom pioneered the caternary-free power pick-up with the APC system.

    It’s in place in Bordeaux, and I believe Marseille.

    Cal’s comment: To be fair, I should have mentioned this, or referred to the Bombardier system as a contact-free power pick-up system. Alstom’s system is more like a third rail in the pavement that is only powered when the vehicle is over it.

    APC is currently only used in Bordeaux. It was proposed for a number of other cities, including Marseille, but no one else has it to date. For more information on this, see the Wikipedia article.

  2. W. K. Lis Says:

    The Bombardier version is more similar to the cordless toothbrushes you may have. There is no metal to short out caused by salted roads, snow, or rain.

    Cal’s comment: Very true, in fact the comparison to toothbrushes was made in a reference article. While there is none of the problems that the Alstom system might have with snow and salt, I wonder if the performance is effected by these things at all. I know that theoretically snow has no effect on a magnetic field, but that should mean that the SRT should operate above and beyond anything else on a bad snow day. It is accelerated and decelerated by magnetic fields (though, the final braking is done with friction brakes) so traction is not supposed to be an issue. Its power pick-up is on vertical surfaces where snow cannot build up, so that should not be a problem either. Nevertheless, the SRT is the first thing to fail when snow hits. I know I am comparing apples to oranges, but let’s see some substantial tests on this new system in our type of environment before we can seriously consider it.