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Battery Powered Tram Charges in 60 Seconds

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the streetcar-named-yokubou dept.

Power 176

SK writes to tell us that a new streetcar, powered by lithium battery, has been invented by the Railway Technical Research Institute in Kokubunji, Tokyo. The new transport is capable of speeds of 40 kph for 15 kilometers and can convert 70 percent of its deceleration energy into electricity which is then sent back to the battery which can recharge in under one minute.

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176 comments

Awesome (0, Flamebait)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163013)

Sounds great! Now if they can get it to go 80 mph for 300 miles on a single charge, it will be marketable here in the US.

It's only a matter of time!

Re:Awesome (2, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163333)

Yes... Because a constantly powered tram car needs to go 300 miles on a "single charge" ;)

Re:Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21164287)

Yes... Because a constantly powered tram car needs a *battery* ;)

Re:Awesome (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164877)

Why not? They're talking about storing braking power and then using that to power the train. Without a battery any such energy is simply lost to the environment. Seems like a good idea a first glance - if their technology is efficient enough.

Re:Awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21164941)

It's totally stupid. In Montreal regenerative braking works by pumping the energy back into the grid. As one metro stops, another starts. What is difficult about this?

Re:Awesome (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21163381)

i think you missed the part where it says "street"-car. 130km/hr is a little too fast for city streets...

Re:Awesome (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164435)

i think you missed the part where it says "street"-car. 130km/hr is a little too fast for city streets...

No, but I meant for a car-car... just that piece of data didn't make it into the post. Improving street cars will do little to reduce pollution. What is needed is improvements that will allow for electric car-cars to become practical, and that was my meaning.

Re:Awesome (1, Insightful)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164925)

Improving street cars will do little to reduce pollution.

Improving public transport will reduce pollution, congestion and accidents. Sadly, before we can improve public transport, we'll need to change attitudes like yours.

Re:Awesome (0, Troll)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165917)

Public transportation is a joke (at least in the US). It's also naive to believe public transportation is a viable solution in the United States. It works in small land masses (Europe, for example), but is inefficient and impractical. Why should I ride two hours each way to work on public transportation, making multiple connections when I can take a car and have a 25-30 minute commute? The problem isn't public transportation, it's the fuel source/storage problem. Electric drivetrains will fix transportation problems in the US, not public transportation.

Re:Awesome (1)

carl0ski (838038) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166229)

Why should I ride two hours each way to work on public transportation, making multiple connections when I can take a car and have a 25-30 minute commute?
that only occurs when their is either poor city planning
or you are misinformed of the best route to take to the destination

Transport companies really do need to resolve these

I used to take 2 hours Train versus 40minutes by car.
However taking the less obvious choice cut travel to 45minutes
(sometimes going the other direction is quicker than a straight line.)

Re:Awesome (1, Troll)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166339)

Improving public transport will reduce pollution, congestion and accidents. Sadly, before we can improve public transport, we'll need to change attitudes like yours.

That's the joy of living in a free country. I'm free to have whatever attitude I like without people like you telling me what to think. Then again, why would someone as superior as yourself care about the people who live in communities that can not afford public transportation like Findlay OH for example. What about the good people of Springfield IL or Houma LA? Even in large cities like Houston TX have areas where people work that are not downtown. Many people work in the outskirts of town. What good is the Metro Park-and-Ride that takes people from parking lots in the outskirts of town to downtown Houston to people who work at HP (formerly Compaq), in north Houston. What good would a public rail system to and from downtown Austin do for the people who work at Dell in Round Rock?

See, that's the problem. People like you want to charge outrageous taxes to build a public transport system so people can get to and from the center of town. What that does is drive up taxes to the point where no new businesses can afford to be downtown. When they try to build on the outskirts, you claim that they are going to destroy the environment by building out there or that they are contributing to urban sprawl or whatever. Finally, the company says screw you people and moves to a friendlier are such as Houston or Austin, or they say screw it all and simply outsource their workforce to someplace like India or Mexico where there is simply no environmental regulation whatsoever. So while you think you are saving the world, you are actually playing a large part in destroying it. Instead of wanting clean, plug-in, quick charging cars that I can use to drive to and from work, you think that the government should be taxing businesses out of this country so I can ride in cramped quarters with a bunch of human flu-factories to my soon-to-be outsourced job.

Of course, this also forces people to live as close as possible to the rail or bus station. Few people can afford to drive to the place where public transportation picks them up. Then they are paying for a car, insurance, parking AND for public transportation. This means we'll all have to live in cramped, overpriced apartments next to the rail station. Nothing says dinner at home like the 5:15 L roaring by, squealing as it bounces from side to side. So much for Americans owning their own homes or making a life better for themselves. They must now live in planned communities, have to rely on the government to take them place to place, rely on the government to build and maintain public spaces for their kids to play in, only be able to buy a day or two's worth of groceries because they don't have a car trunk to put them all in.

Of course, don't even get me started on what will happen if an evacuation were to occur. Without a car, where will you go? Maybe you could go to the local sports stadium and wait for the government to take you away from there.

Is that your idea of 'land of the free?' Wouldn't it be better if I could just have my clean car AND my freedom? Isn't that what freedom is all about, being able to live as I want to live? I can take care of myself. I don't want the government proving for my every need.

Re:Awesome (5, Insightful)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163425)

Actually, for light-rail systems, this would be great.

- 40kph is enough. That's approximately 25mph, which is just right for light-rail.

- 15km is not quite enough. Many light-rail systems have stops that are farther apart than that. Double that number and it's golden. (15km = approx. 9 mi. 18 mi. should be enough for 90% of light-rail systems.)

Recharging at each stop is not unfeasible if the wait is only 60 seconds.

Now for the real problems:
- What does it cost?
- What does it cost to maintain?

If either of those numbers is large, it won't work in the US until mass transit catches on with the masses it's named after. Gasoline will have to be $10/gallon before that will happen.

Re:Awesome (1)

Annymouse Cowherd (1037080) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163817)

Why does light rail need batteries?

Re:Awesome (1)

mikael (484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164519)

In case someone crashes through the power lines and disables the system for some time. Or maybe there is a general power failure after a road digger cuts through the underground power lines.

Re:Awesome (2, Insightful)

enrevanche (953125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165727)

It does not require power at either track level or overhead. For new systems this is a cost saving (at least as far as the infrastructure goes). It also is safer.

It may allow systems to be installed where the were not previously feasible.

Re:Awesome (3, Insightful)

Kuciwalker (891651) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164507)

- 15km is not quite enough. Many light-rail systems have stops that are farther apart than that. Double that number and it's golden. (15km = approx. 9 mi. 18 mi. should be enough for 90% of light-rail systems.)

Add a second battery? That would double the range, and since you can charge them in parallel it should still only take 60 seconds.

Re:Awesome (1)

afaik_ianal (918433) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164939)

Except you still need to handle double the current. Running two sets of power lines to the charging points may fix that (and provide redundancy ;)), but rapidly charging batteries is not as simple as you might think.

Re:Awesome (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166003)

Actually, 40kph is NOT fast enough. Most LRT (and monorails) move at ~ 60 MPH/100kph. But there is a simple solution on this. As you mentioned, 60 seconds is not that long for a stop. More importantly, the train could actually use a bit of a guidewire at first with much higher wattages. That way, when the train is first starting, it gets a boost from fixed wire (pantograph), and then uses the battery for running (which is very efficient). In fact, this would work very nicely with a monorail since they weigh a great deal less than LRT.

Re:Awesome (1)

halycon404 (1101109) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166115)

I don't know. To build anything like this in US cities, you have to add in costs of elevating the line, or sinking it into the ground. None of the infrastructure exists here. To make matters worse, you can't just drop in lines as you go along. Everything needs to be deployed at the same time to make it usable. I'm all for public transportation, if it works. But the cost of converting the major cities in the US isn't billions, its trillions once you add all the cities involved and the amount of track/cars needed to be built. I just don't know if I'll ever see public transportation take off in my lifetime regardless of what sort of prices we see at the pump. The problems facing it are huge, and while its gains are probably larger than the investment made, no politician is going to sign off on that sort of investment of resources because Presidents, Congressmen, and Mayors don't worry about the future, they only worry about now. Maybe if you privatize it, we'd see real growth in the market. Add in subs for companies willing to put in the investment, in turn for a limited monopoly(5-10 years) to make a return on the investment, give the company a chance to retain the monopoly in exchange for another large chunk of capital used for upgrading the line. I don't know, I just don't see the government ever building anything as extensive as the nations highway system ever again.

Correct me if I'm wrong... (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163025)

But a tram runs on rails which mean it always follows a known route rather precisely and can therefore be supplied with electricity directly... No batteries required.

Isn't this just solving a problem which doesn't really exist?
 

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (5, Interesting)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163081)

Well, yes and no. Power delivery is not a problem at all. Look at the cable cars in San Fransisco, any modern subway... really most modern rail systems. However, if they can turn 70% of their breaking power in to electrical energy, accelerating the train back up to speed or, apparently, 15Km of crusing can be done absolutely for free. Lowering the carbon footprint to make it more environmentally friendly and cutting costs for the opperator all at once.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21163141)

Yup, and adding batteries and control electronics and employing people to write control software and building the damn things doesn't add any carbon at all!
See, that's the problem with current thinking re the carbon problem. We're just throwing more technology at the problem, technology which is subsidized entirely by the present fossil fuel economy. The only real long term solution to the carbon footprint problem is to radically re-think how we live our lives. Do we need to travel to and from work everyday when all we do is manipulate information?

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Interesting)

frup (998325) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163343)

Often the short term cost of a long term solution is great. From that the long term problem eventually gets solved/improved though. Even if this seems a waste in some ways it places building blocks for the next step. With out these kinds of projects it would be difficult for us to think differently or even transition to a new lifestyle. In New Zealand, if everyone employed solar water heating we would save 50% of household power usage from the old water cylinder. That's the amount a $1 billion power plant could give us extra. So each person spends an extra $10,000 on their home instead of a cheap water cylinder and the long term savings for the country are huge.

I agree that throwing ever more Hi-tech at the problem probably won't fix anything but thinking about how we use our current low tech in different ways will. I am studying architecture and have taken many papers and read many books on sustainable building (Not just in the sense of green building either) and can tell you from my point of view it is where humanity can save the most resources. Building smaller more contained rooms saves on heating, so does building thick concrete floors. The way we use windows etc etc.

I also think that taking an open source approach to more of our research and getting rid of patents will save a lot of money and carbon dioxide emissions. Too much effort is being put in to redundancy.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163483)

That's the amount a $1 billion power plant could give us extra. So each person spends an extra $10,000 on their home instead of a cheap water cylinder and the long term savings for the country are huge.
Right... Because 1.4 million households spending $10,000 each to save a billion dollars makes perfect sense...

 

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Interesting)

frup (998325) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163579)

The benefit being a reduction in your personal power bill, lower carbon emissions etc. We did it and save around $100 per month now. Over 10 years your installation is free.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (0, Troll)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163755)

You realise that 1.4 million multiplied by $10,000 is $14 billion? Which is much, much bigger than $1 billion. In fact, it's 14 times as big.

 

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Informative)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163903)

Please tell me what power plants your area has so I can recommend them to my community. I mean free energy once it's built, no need to buy fuel for the power plant ever? Sign me right up.

Of course it is quite clear he meant $1 billion per year in terms of the cost of electricity had it been produced by a power plant (which includes fuel, construction costs, transmission losses and so on).

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164125)

That's the amount a $1 billion power plant could give us extra.

Of course it is quite clear he meant $1 billion per year in terms of the cost of electricity had it been produced by a power plant (
Nope. It's not clear at all that's what he meant. And $1 billion per year to run a power plant? Is that nuclear, coal, hydro-electric?

 

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

frup (998325) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164145)

I seem to be wrong on the price... I had to check over my notes etc... $10,000 is one of the more expensive installations aimed more for commercial use. Very basic systems such as the Solar Edwards LX series are under $3000 and suitable for the average home. There may be cheaper solutions too.

The initial cost maybe more, but you save on your power bill and there is less cost in maintenance that a power plant would incur. It uses solar energy which is no doubt one of the cleanest.

There are personal benefits concerning liberty too, self sustainability and not having to worry about government or corporate policies. The warranty on the system that I just skimmed over was 7 years. No doubt many systems would last longer than that. One of my points was that the initial cost maybe higher but long term it get cheaper. It may cost $1 billion for a power plant but it is then run at profit, that doesn't get passed on to the consumer. We save $100 per month in power bills and after some time there is no cost to our water heating.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

3nd32 (855123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166155)

Makes me glad I live in an apartment in Idaho. Your savings are about double my total bill for utilities.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

x1n933k (966581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163847)

You have a good point, we do need to do more than just invent new technologies however at the same time it the need is still there and the cost to repair and maintain current systems use massive amounts of energy anyways so it is better now to implement technologies that save than to find ourselves with completely redundant technologies in the future when we have fewer resources and less energy to spare.

[J]

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

gnuman99 (746007) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164225)

Agreed. Solution is simple. Convert all fossil fuel plants to nuclear and add more nuclear/solar (in desert areas, rooftops, for example) to generate hydrogen for stuff that is not fixed (eg. cars, trucks, long haul railway lines like in Siberia or Canada, etc.). Then you have no carbon footprint. Problem solved. Right?

But until then, throwing money and technology by taxing carbon is probably the best way of dealing with CO2. CO2 is a waste and when consumers pay for the waste they generate (ie. business generate CO2, pay for it, price of goods then in fraction reflects CO2 costs which is passed to consumers as cost of materials is now). Sorry, Utopia of living in caves will not solve the problem of CO2.

Money runs the world as people seem to like it that way. Put a price on waste, and people will start to reduce their waste.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164681)

Sure, all those things generate some pollution too. Question is: is that pollution greater smaller than that produced by feeding the tram for the duration of its service life? If so, then you have a victory, however minor it may be.

Now, this of course does not in any way invalidate the argument that moving to a saner daily routine would help far more, but until then, this helps.

Trams are the wrong solution (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163371)

However, if they can turn 70% of their breaking power in to electrical energy, accelerating the train back up to speed or, apparently, 15Km of crusing can be done absolutely for free.
The problem with trams is the same problem any group transport vehicle has... But worse.

Trams in particular have very short distances between stations, often only 500m or so. Great for getting on and off, it makes them very accessible unlike traditional rail which doesn't get used much because the stations are so far apart, but, because the distance is so short, they literally spend all of their time accelerating, decelerating and stopped.

Now, the most efficient way to run a vehicle is at a constant speed, acceleration is expensive in terms of energy, and the more mass you have, the more energy you expend. Trams almost never reach a constant speed and because they're basically rail, they're extremely heavy as well.

Essentially trams are a square peg beaten into a round hole. Hence the battery kludge to try to make them more efficient.

Re:Trams are the wrong solution (2, Interesting)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165489)

Now, the most efficient way to run a vehicle is at a constant speed, acceleration is expensive in terms of energy, and the more mass you have, the more energy you expend. Trams almost never reach a constant speed and because they're basically rail, they're extremely heavy as well.

Rail doesn't necessarily mean heavy. And trams are usually powered by low-voltage DC (relatively low: 600V as opposed to up to 25kV for a lot of trains) overhead lines, which makes pumping energy from regenerative braking back into the system relatively easy. And keep in mind also that rolling friction on steel rails is a lot less than friction from a rubber tire on a roadway.

-b.

Re:Trams are the wrong solution (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165817)

Rail doesn't necessarily mean heavy.
Meh. It pretty much does. It's the nature of the beast. If you're carrying a lot of people in a single vehicle, you need a vehicle which can carry the weight. Trams range from 20-50 tonnes per vehicle.

e.g.
http://www.edinburgh-tram.co.uk/tram.htm [edinburgh-tram.co.uk]
http://www.railway-technology.com/projects/sheffield-tram/specs.html [railway-technology.com]

Then you need an infrastructure which can handle the weight of the vehicles. This is usually also very expensive per mile.

And keep in mind also that rolling friction on steel rails is a lot less than friction from a rubber tire on a roadway.
Rolling resistance is secondary to air resistance and the effect on efficiency is much lower than simply going from internal combustion to electric. Trolley buses [wikipedia.org] have most of the advantages of trams without the disadvantages.

I have no problem with rail used appropriately. You get a train carrying hundreds of people up to speed and then let it roll for 200 miles to another city you have one of the most efficient transport mechanisms in existence even if it weighs 200 tonnes. But stop/start that same train every 2 miles and it's a completely different story.

A much better solution in the second case is to use small vehicles which can pull into offline stations allowing other vehicles to continue non stop with no acceleration or deceleration.

Re:Trams are the wrong solution (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166243)

"Meh. It pretty much does. It's the nature of the beast. If you're carrying a lot of people in a single vehicle, you need a vehicle which can carry the weight. Trams range from 20-50 tonnes per vehicle."

City busses aren't exactly light either.

"Rolling resistance is secondary to air resistance and the effect on efficiency is much lower than simply going from internal combustion to electric."

At lower speeds (under 25 mph/40km/h) rolling resistance has more of a pronounced effect. And that's where trams spend most of their lives.

-b.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163681)

Actually, the cruising can be done for the cost of the battery and associated management system. If the price of the battery is high, it could make the system more expensive for the operator. The efficiency benefits aren't automatic either, the battery is going to have a bit of mass(though the benefits are probably real).

You're wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21163809)

Subways, streetcars, trains, etc.. that run from a DC bus already use regenerative braking to pump energy back into the line for other trains / "things" to use. The cars in NYC, for example, can regen up to 500 amps PER CAR at 600v. That's a LOT of power for a few seconds. It makes things much more efficient.

-
MK

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

fizzup (788545) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164375)

SkyTrain, in Vancouver, British Columbia, uses regenerative braking [jrtr.net] with a linear induction motor to accelerate other trains on the same line. All the efficiency, without all the batteries. SkyTrain is over 20 years old.

Always was this way. Batteries not included. (5, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164629)

Power delivery is not a problem at all. Look at the cable cars in San Fransisco, any modern subway... really most modern rail systems. However, if they can turn 70% of their breaking power in to electrical energy, accelerating the train back up to speed or, apparently, 15Km of crusing can be done absolutely for free.

And it already works that way. And it has been working this way since brush-powered electric trains and buses were first built.

If you've got a speed-controllable electric motor hooked to an electric grid, you can do regenerative braking by setting the motor's desired speed to something lower than its current speed. The motor then DEcelerates the vehicle, acting as a generator and putting the vehicle's energy (less resistive, eddy-current, hysteresis, and excitation losses) back into the power supply.

If there are rotary converters (or suitably designed electronic converters) in the system (for instance: To turn line AC into DC or lower-frequency AC for the trains/buses), they do the same thing - pushing the energy back toward the main grid. If not, the energy is still usable by other vehicles on the system that happen to be consuming power, dropping the amount that needs to be pulled from the primary supply.

This is very convenient: In addition to the energy savings, the vehicle's mechanical brakes get much less use, and much less wear. They can be reserved for the last moments of a full stop, holding the vehicle motionless when stopped, and for emergencies. This drastically reduces the necessary maintenance.

What the super-fast-charge battery does is let you do the same thing - MAJOR regenerative braking - for a vehicle that's NOT continuously attached to a power grid. The current hybrids do some of this using more ordinary battery technology. But there are limits due to the batteries' slow charging, large losses, and weight. The fast charge means even a panic stop can be salvaged and a much lower weight of batteries is necessary for a given RATE of energy transfer.

Also: The fast charge implies that the batteries lose very little energy when storing it (otherwise they'd melt down or catch fire). This implies low internal resistance, which also means fast and efficient DIScharge when you want the energy back. So we finally have batteries that can perform as well as (or better than) a (still mostly impractical) flywheel/motor-generator system for "peaking" storage. (TFA's stated losses of about 30% per stop/start cycle look about right for a system where the losses are virtually all in the motor and controller. That would be about 84% efficiency on both start and stop cycles, which is right in the ballpark for a good motor.)

Size the batteries large enough to store the power of a vehicle coming down off about 8,500 feet of mountain freeway and making a full stop near sea level and you achieve the full potential of regenerative breaking: The engine then needs only to be big enough to fight friction - like under 20 horse - and can run at maximum efficiency when it runs at all. Size them maybe a tad larger to also run a couple long and hilly commute-and-shopping cycles on a line-powered charge without starting the engine - reserving the engine for long trips - and you also achieve a fully-functional "plug-in hybrid", a single vehicle adequate to completely replace a normal, non-hybrid, car in ALL service cycles and run off utility electricity (currently the equivalent of about $0.75/gallon gas) in all but cross-country trips.

The usual statement about such breakthroughs - that deployment is always 10 years away - seems to have been hurdled. This technology was at that stage a year or two back. But THIS announcement, of deployment in a vehicle (even though experimental) implies it's not just sitting in the lab, but getting some real-world production and testing. Once that's a production vehicle (if not sooner) the batteries will also be available to automobile designers...

Re:Always was this way. Batteries not included. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164739)

So we finally have batteries that can perform as well as (or better than) a (still mostly impractical) flywheel/motor-generator system for "peaking" storage. (TFA's stated losses of about 30% per stop/start cycle look about right for a system where the losses are virtually all in the motor and controller. That would be about 84% efficiency on both start and stop cycles, which is right in the ballpark for a good motor.)

Make that definitely "better than" flywheel peaking.

A flywheel peaking system runs the power through four mechanical/electrical conversions. A battery peaking system runs it through two mechanical/electrical and two electrical/chemical. If the battery's charge/discharge efficiency is better than the motor/generator's conversion efficiency at the power levels required, batteries win on efficiency. And it looks like this one beats the PANTS off a motor/generator.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166309)

Not that I disagree with your point, but cable cars in San Francisco aren't electric. The "cables" in the name are looped steel cables run under the road. The trains travel by clamping onto these cables and "riding" them, the way you might grip to rope to get pulled up a ski hill. Next time you're crossing the street in San Fran, look down and you can see the cable whizzing by under the street.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (3, Insightful)

7macaw (933316) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163111)

"Conventional" tram needs wires along the whole route, while this one would need only a few recharging points => less wires needed.

I suppose a bus that works in the same fashion could be even more beneficial since it would combine the route flexibility of a bus with the cheapness and cleanness of an electrically-powered vehicle

Best reply of the bunch (2, Insightful)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163417)

You're reply is pretty much spot on - having a battery will reduce the amount of wires needed. You're also correct in pointing out this would be even better for a bus - note that some work was being done in the 1960's on flywheel powered buses with recharging stations at the bus stops.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163527)

And no $20million/mile rails required...
 

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165617)

The overhead lines for straight lines aren't the problem. Its the lines over stations, turnouts and intersections and bridges that are the real problem.

The train and tram system in Melbourne use different power (AC/DC and different voltages) and there are places where the trams cross the train lines and there is a bit of fancy insulation going there and they need to maintain speed or else they stop.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163545)

One problem with buses is that they require a lot more power than railed vehicles. I would guess that this new technology provides enough energy for a tram (in the U.S. we call them "light rail" or "trolleys") but not enough for a bus. But I'm no expert.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

UncleTogie (1004853) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165213)

I would guess that this new technology provides enough energy for a tram (in the U.S. we call them "light rail" or "trolleys") but not enough for a bus.

Actually, as indicated earlier, they've been testing systems in New York City [greencarcongress.com] using another regenerative braking system called HybriDrive from these folks... [baesystems.com]

No idea if the BAE system has the "70%" conversion rate of this one or not.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

thogard (43403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165585)

Busses tend to weigh much less than trams since trams tend to be built like rail cars by companies that deal with rail roads. Trams could be much lighter but they aren't mostly because of a hundred years of doing things the same way. The new ones they just bought for Melbourne Australia are heavier and use more energy per passenger than the last ones and their energy requirement per passenger is still higher than high efficiency cars. Here in Melbourne one ticket will let your ride busses, trains or trams and the train and tram companies are heavily subsidised. That implies the cost per trip on the bus is lower.

Remember the good old times... (-1, Offtopic)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163127)

when most women were housewifes which means they only cleaned and cooked, and therefore didn't need elaborate schooling. No colleges for women required.

Educated women, emancipated trams... It's a slippery slope I tell you.

Re:Remember the good old times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21164261)

Off-topic? He's just pointing out that times change, and trams do not _need_ wires or rails any more...

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

qweqwe321 (1097441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163157)

From TFA: "According to the institute, it uses about 10 percent less power than existing streetcars."

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163219)

Since it can recharge from itself, it uses less energy, and therefore doesn't cost as much to keep going.

PS: The self-recharging tram is not in charge of Gundam.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163489)

But a tram runs on rails which mean it always follows a known route rather precisely and can therefore be supplied with electricity directly... No batteries required.

Currently, many tram systems (for example, Melbourne, Berlin) do generate electricity when braking, giving back electricity to the tram network and helping to save some energy, if another tram happens to be accelerating or running at the time.

However, if a tram is on a regional route and far from any other trams, such as at a late hour, this energy is wasted.

Using flywheels and other mechanical devices has been tried but is dangerous and expensive.

This battery device would greatly increase the efficiency of trams.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

Mike89 (1006497) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163745)

many tram systems (for example, Melbourne, Berlin) do generate electricity when braking
Do you have a source for this? I live in Melbourne and would be interested in reading how it works.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165297)

Well for specifics, the W-class trams have been fitted with magnetic track brakes which act as generators, and as far as i know the newer (Siemens) D1 and D2 trams have the same braking principle. In the past this excess energy from braking was released as heat without contribution to the electricity grid. My source was an employee of the tram companies in Melbourne, but I can't confirm if it really is used to save energy in Melbourne. In other words, the trams are capable and designed to do this, but now that I've looked I can't find a written source to verify that they actually are doing this in Melbourne.

Sorry about that.

Magnetic track brakes (1)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166043)

Magnetic track brakes use regenerated current to energize a magnet that applies the brake clasps to the wheels. There is a bit of extra braking effort due to force of attraction between the magnet and the rail below it. The technology probably dates back to before 1910.

Not really... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163639)

Read that "capable of converting 70 percent of its deceleration energy into electricity, which it sends back to the battery." part again.

Every time it stops - it recharges a bit. On its inertia alone.
Also, being battery powered, you could set up recharge stations that get electricity from solar or other renewable sources.

And... you can remove all those cables and save/recycle quite a bit of copper.

Not a problem that doesn't exist. Maybe couple of problems we weren't aware of.

Sweet!! (2, Funny)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163031)

he institute will start conducting test runs in Sapporo at the end of November to check the streetcar's capacity.

A street car that runs on Sapporo! Can you drink out of the tank! Oooo sushi bar in the back of the car, drink out of the tank, party train!

Wait, it's 'in' not 'on'?!?

Dammit! I just bought plane tickets. Shit.

Obviously... (5, Funny)

locokamil (850008) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163117)

... Sony will be lead supplier for the lithium ion batteries to power the vehicles, thus affording the industrial conglomerate an excellent opportunity to diversify into the burgeoning mass-traffic-explosion industry.

Re:Obviously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21163187)

And they will blow up due to general shoddy quality.

Sony Batteries!!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21164983)

So you'll be able to see the Trams coming at night more easily, just look for the flames in the distance....

Re:Obviously... (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165253)

I'm looking forward to the REVA coming to my country, the newer versions of which come with Li-Ion batteries. No more explosive than dead dinos.

I think that website could use some ads. (0)

7macaw (933316) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163145)

Really, why not earn a few dollars by putting some ads on? I think there's still some unused space on the page...

Re:I think that website could use some ads. (0)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163229)

Yes I also love websites so laden with flashvertisements that they bring my 1.8Ghz P4 with 2 Gb RAM to its knees. This obviously was what the internet was intended for...

How much charge? (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163189)

"Recharge in under one minute". Sure, but how much charge? Take how many kilowatt-hours of charge you want, multiply it by 60 and you'll get how many kilowatts of power you need to charge it in a minute. Now divide by the voltage to get the current. How big would the cable and the contacts need to be?


It seems we now have the ideal battery (also called a "capacitor"), now let's concentrate on creating the superconducting cables and contacts.

Re:How much charge? (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164115)

A quick Google search turned up the rough conservative estimate of one square millimeter of copper bus bar per 10 amperes of current.

How good is this ? (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163195)

TFA:

According to the institute, it uses about 10 percent less power than existing streetcars.
Apparently, not very. Consider the initial cost of the battery (li-ion is not cheap, the tesla roadster [wikipedia.org] for example costs $100,000 most of which is for the battery pack, ~ $75,000 IIRC). Then consider the cost of disposing or recycling the batteries which will presumably need to be done several times in the life of the streetcar. I guess this is a start, but at 10% less power, I don't see this as much of an advantage.

Re:How good is this ? (1)

philicorda (544449) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163431)

It does seem an expensive and complicated was to power a bus. I don't understand why they don't use flywheels anymore. There were buses in the 1940's that used flywheels for energy storage, charged in 30 seconds and could do regenerative braking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyrobus [wikipedia.org] I bet modern flywheel storage, with magnetic bearings and more efficient conversion to electric power, would be comparable or better than batteries and cheaper too. No nasty waste to dispose of either.

Re:How good is this ? (1)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164517)

If you'll read the wikipedia article you linked to, you'll find tons of reasons that these aren't used.

Some disadvantages which it seems no amount of modern tech could get around are (from the article):

* Weight, a bus which can carry 20 persons and has radius of 20 km, must carry a flywheel which weighs 3 t.

* The flywheel, which turns at 3000 revolutions per minute, requires special attachment and security--because the external speed of the disk is 900 km/h.

* Driving a gyrobus has the added complexity that the flywheel acts as a gyroscope and so always has the same attitude, even when the bus goes around curves or corners.

Also the article mentions in several places that the amount of energy that could be realistically stored in a flywheel was prohibitive for longer or more complex bus routes (having to stop the bus for 30 seconds to 3 minutes every couple of miles seems like a show stopper).

And what happens if for some reason that bus has to stop for a while, like a flat tire, and the flywheel loses its momentum? How do you get the bus moving again?

I think that the pressurized air system mechanism of storing energy would be even better than this flywheel idea, and even that has too many disadvantages to see practical use.

Re:How good is this ? (1)

repvik (96666) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163593)

Li-ION is worthless for this purpose. It'll only last a few hundred charge/discharge cycles. Lead-acid batteries are both cheaper and longer lasting.

Re:How good is this ? (1)

vivian (156520) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166403)

Who said anything about using standard Ii-Ion batteries? TFA just says they are using Lithium batteries. I would imagine they are using LiFePO4 batteries (Lithium phosphate batteries) as have already been covered on slashdot several times before. The nano particle versions of these have charge characteristics similar to what are described in the article, have much longer duty cycles than lead acid batteries, much better power to weight rations and capacity, and have significantly improved safety over standard lithium Ion batteries. ( eg. you can cut them in half / shoot them / mash them to a pulp) and they wont explode.
Companies such as A123 [a123systems.com]
and Valence Technology [valence.com]
and many others are already making these commercially available batteries.

They are also apparently recyclable and not as nasty on the environment as lead acid batteries either.

Streetcar (4, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163245)

a new streetcar, powered by lithium battery, has been invented by the Railway Technical Research Institute in Kokubunji, Tokyo. The new transport is capable of speeds of 40 kph for 15 kilometers and can convert 70 percent of its deceleration energy into electricity which is then sent back to the battery which can recharge in under one minute.
I desire this streetcar.

Ho80 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21163259)

Lite is straining Little-known Invited back again. had become like only way to go: a full-time GNAA my calling. Now I trouble. It

Do those batteries have a maximum charging rate? (2, Insightful)

effigiate (1057610) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163283)

Wow, charging the batteries in one minute? I'm not sure about lithium batteries, but standard lead acid batteries have a recommended maximum charge rate. For them to recharge the battery in one minute, they're going to have to be pushing a LOT of current...especially considering they're going 15km on one charge. I'd be worried about battery life on these (probably) expensive batteries.

Old idea just new technology (1)

IvyKing (732111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163353)

Battery operated streetcars are nothing new - see The Time of the Trolley by William D. Middleton. Battery cars were used in such diverse places as New York City and Billings, Montana.


What makes this new is improvements in motor control circuitry making regeneration a lot more practical for streetcar use and improvements in battery technology - the old battery cars typically used Edison cells.

Has to be said [Humour] (0)

wikinerd (809585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163443)

  • LiIon batteries exploding... Check
  • LiIon has known safety limitations, especially when manufactured by slave labour in communist China PRC... Check
  • Tram using LiIon... Check
  • ???
  • Profit!

Charge a lithium battery in one minute? (2, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163471)

Huh ... I didn't realize that Japan was getting back into explosives research.

hopefully this time they will stay around (4, Interesting)

DMoylan (65079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163555)

The original Drumm train was constructed in the Great Southern Railways workshops at Inchicore. The weight of the train with passengers was about 85 tons. There was seating accommodation for 140 passengers. The train could accelerate from standstill at about 1 m.p.h. per second and attain speeds of 40 to 50 m.p.h. with ease. The train was fitted with a successful system of regenerative braking, whereby an important fraction of the energy surge made available on a down-gradient or on de-accelerating at a station was returned to the battery. The Drumm Battery train operated successfully on the Dublin to Bray section of the line with occasional runs to Greystones some five miles farther on, from 1932 to 1948. As passsenger numbers increased two pairs of power units were joined under the control of one driver and later a specially wired coach was put between the two trains bringing its capacity up to 400 passengers. By 1939, four Drumm trains had been built but it became impossible to secure orders and raw material once the World War 11, 1939-1945, broke out. The Drumm Battery Company folded in 1940. The outbreak of the war made the Drumm trains invaluable as coal for steam engines was in short supply and inferior. With the war over, it was decided in 1949 to scrap the Drumm trains at a time when the promise of diesel locomotives pointed to the end of the steam era. The Drumm trains, minus their batteries were sometimes used as ordinary coaches.
http://chem.ch.huji.ac.il/history/drumm.html [huji.ac.il]

Re:hopefully this time they will stay around (1)

dotwaffle (610149) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163909)

World War Eleven you say? I know the Irish stayed Neutral officially for WW2, but WW11? Yeesh.

Re:hopefully this time they will stay around (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164081)

Why am I always the last to find out about these things? First it's a club meeting here I somehow did not know about but everyone else did, then something else there, and finally now I hear that 9 World Wars happened when I wasn't looking. I know I occasionally miss things, but this is just too much!

And more importantly, who won them?

I hope they aren't using Sony batteries. (1)

andreyvul (1176115) | more than 6 years ago | (#21163897)

If a laptop explodes, you lose your data and/or get a first/second-degree burn on your hands/legs/chest. If a tram explodes due to a faulty battery, there will be plenty of death and Tokyo will be screwed.

Awesome Lithium Tech (3, Interesting)

Bryan Ischo (893) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164253)

If its battery is anything like lithium ion batteries used in laptops, then after a year it'll only go 5 km on a charge instead of 15. Also it will do weird things like indicate that it has enough charge to go another 5 km but just suddenly use up its last 20% in under a minute.

I am not a big fan of lithium ion tech. It seems very gimmicky to me; allowing manufacturers to claim that their laptop batteries last N hours when in fact that will only be true for less than 6 months, as the charge capacity of lithium ion batteries always rapidly deteriorate.

My Panasonic Y2 battery started at 6+ hours per charge, and is now, after not even three years, down to about 2.5 hours per charge.

So if the streetcar in question uses similar tech, then I would expect its range to diminish rapidly with recharges. Since it will be recharged much more frequently than any laptop would, can we even expect its battery to last a whole year before becoming basically worthless?

Re:Awesome Lithium Tech (1)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166313)

I find charge cycling very helpful in these circumstances. And discharging dead flat like Ni-Cad's either. I find the Li-Ion Batteries I've had to last quite a long time. Just so long as I've kept a good charging routine. Memoryless my ass, like most things, treat them right and they'll last you ages. (the occasional dud still happens).

2 Questions (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164587)

First, well, I'm no expert in fast charging, but when I fast charge batteries, they tend to get quite warm. Isn't a lot of energy wasted in heat when you press the juice in?

And second, in what way is that superior to an overhead power line to draw the power from? I mean, train lines are kinda set in stone (or rail, rather), so it's not like cars that need to be able to drive where they want to.

I wonder... (1)

skelly33 (891182) | more than 6 years ago | (#21164749)

... what kind of fireball a giant lithium battery would create (?) Of course this is a minor detail as the power cell could be based on any storage technology conceivably.

I have a feeling that increasing speed is the biggest issue facing this technology because, if I'm not mistaken, most ground vehicles expend most of their energy defeating wind resistance. Thus if most energy were spent defeating wind, it would be impossible to reclaim most of that energy during deceleration. IANA fluid dynamics expert, but my guess would be that they avoid this problem specifically by keeping the velocity low, thereby reducing the energy required.

One minute? Perfect! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165017)

That's about how long the driver takes to argue with some hobo about dodging the fare. They could recharge at almost every stop!

Interesting application (2, Interesting)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165217)

Besides regenerative braking, the battery technology could be used in areas where it is expensive, or unsightly to install an overhead conductor. The trolley can charge off the distribution system and then continue along routes where no overhead is required.

Visit Seattle and ride the SLUT [nwsource.com]!

Re:Interesting application (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21165427)

It's an interesting thought, but there's a nontrivial problem in having the trolley find the conductor again. Most streetcars I've seen have a springy-thing that pushes up against the wire; you'd need to guide the contact back up against the wire again. For point-contact overhead devices, this would probably be rather tricky, especially since the contact would probably be free to swing around wildly while not being guided. I guess if you have a wide contact, though, I suppose you could probably just build in some retractor mechanism... eh, I dunno, it just strikes me as another darned thing to go wrong and make my trolley late. They have enough problems with that on the buses.

Parallel vs Serial Charging (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21165745)

I don't understand why it takes so long to charge batteries. Why can't the charger charge little chunks of the battery independently, in parallel, then discharge the bank of batteries serially? Why not break down the bank into the maximum number of little chargeable batteries, for the fastest charging time? There might be some inefficiencies in the discharge through several separate batteries, but the slow recharge is the main obstacle to forgetting these batteries are even part of the problem.

Re:Parallel vs Serial Charging (1)

rcw-home (122017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21166457)

I don't understand why it takes so long to charge batteries. Why can't the charger charge little chunks of the battery independently, in parallel, then discharge the bank of batteries serially? Why not break down the bank into the maximum number of little chargeable batteries, for the fastest charging time? There might be some inefficiencies in the discharge through several separate batteries, but the slow recharge is the main obstacle to forgetting these batteries are even part of the problem.

The big reasons it takes so long to charge batteries are heat and the surface area of the anode and cathode of each cell. It does not matter whether you, for example, pump 3A @ 4.2V into three li-ion cells in parallel or pump 1A @ 12.6V into three li-ion cells in series - each cell will see 4.2V @ 1A regardless (there will be slight differences because the cells are not identical, and will have different internal resistances at different charge states - charging/discharging cells in parallel actually exacerbates these differences, and that's one reason it's so rarely done.)

One of the really cool things about NiCd cells is that their charge cycle is endothermic - at standard charge rates, they actually cool down slightly as you charge them. At rapid charge rates, they heat up a lot less than NiMH or li-ion (assuming your charger shuts off when the battery is done).

The charge rates for cells are expressed as a multiple or fraction of C. Charging at C means your cell is charged in 1 hour. C/10 means 10 hours. 2C means 30 minutes. 60C means the one minute described in the article.

There's a little bit of a tradeoff between power density (how quickly you can get energy out of a cell) and energy density (how much energy you can get out of a cell). You want to make the surface area of the anode and cathode as large as possible for the former, and you want to make the mass of the anode and cathode as large as possible for the latter. This is also what differentiates lead-acid car batteries from lead-acid deep-cycle batteries. The lead plates in the car battery have lots and lots of holes to increase the surface area, and the plates in a deep-cycle battery are thick and solid to increase the mass.

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