Driving right – saving energy

27. 02. 2019

Fuel and thus energy can be reduced not only in the private sphere by anticipatory and constant driving with the car. Energy can also be saved by driving freight trains - and not just a little. What is required for this? A good portion of sure instinct and the right technology.

The electricity that moves our trains and thus our goods in Austria comes 100 percent from renewable energy sources. This makes ÖBB one of the most environmentally friendly railway infrastructure operators.

Nevertheless, the railway is Austria's largest single consumer of electricity. On the Vienna-Passau route, an average freight train consumes 6,000 kilowatt hours. That is as much electricity as a four-person household consumes in an entire year.

Although rail freight transport is environmentally friendly anyway, energy consumption can also be reduced during train journeys. And that really pays off. Because through appropriate driving style and special vehicle technology, up to ten percent of energy can be saved. Modern drive technology, aerodynamics and the regenerative brake, which is already fitted as standard in all new locomotives, make this possible. This special brake, for example, makes it possible to make sensible use of braking energy.

The energy generated during braking is fed directly back into the catenary network, where it flows to the next traction unit or back into the power grid. Trains therefore produce electricity when braking. The trick, however, is to control the train in such a way that both the timetable and the maximum operating quality are maintained. And this is exactly what needs to be learned - such as the careful use of speed controller and brake. This requires not only a sure instinct, but also a smart mind and above all experience. That's why locomotive drivers are also trained during their training and regularly trained on driving simulators through practical training.

Different track profiles, driving conditions and constantly changing weather conditions can be simulated realistically and trained accordingly. Whether sunshine, cloudbursts, snow flurries or slippery tracks caused by autumn leaves, all these factors have an effect on driving behaviour and thus on the energy saving potential.

Energy-saving driving requires a great deal of know-how, experience and sure instinct.

Driving in an energy-saving manner means driving as far ahead as possible. For example, just before a hilltop, the speed is reduced to take advantage of the downhill momentum and let the train roll out - without losing speed. On a flat track, the train starts at full speed. Because measurements prove it: The faster the top speed is reached, the sooner the train can simply roll out over long distances. And the more electricity and diesel you save. The winner: the environment. Because every kilowatt hour saved saves the environment CO2. Digital driver assistance systems help train drivers to reduce energy consumption during a train journey. They give tips on how the train can best be steered through the line, how to make use of speeding spots, how to overcome slow driving spots most efficiently and how to avoid unnecessary stops.