The first electric train that will only need the force of gravity to recharge its batteries is already on the way.
In order to mitigate the impact of public transport on the environment, various companies and scientists have developed countless initiatives and models for the creation of new sustainable alternatives.
Australian miner Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) and its UK subsidiary Williams Advance Engineering (WAE) recently announced a pioneering project called ‘Infinity Train’ which will transport raw materials and iron cargo from Australian mines to the coast. Gravitational energy is its source of electricity and no additional charge is needed to make the moves.
This train is equivalent to a series of batteries that will be recharged by gravity in an operation similar to that applied in the battery regeneration systems of current electric cars.
GRAVITY FOR ENDLESS TRAVEL
This innovation will use the force of gravity to charge the batteries, in addition, it will take advantage of the slopes and the layout of the tracks to transport the trains and obtain energy. It’s an infinite cycle that doesn’t use fuel and they won’t install charging stations either.
The main objective is to stop using large locomotives powered by fossil fuels, sometimes more than one at the same time, to use greener systems. The mining scenario, although it may seem very demanding at first glance, only requires a lot of power when loading from the mining area to unloading.
As Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines said, the Infinity Train will have the potential to be the most efficient battery-electric locomotive in the world, as regenerating electricity on downhill sections of track will “eliminate the need to install charging infrastructure”, while producing renewable energy.
This world-first technology for a freight train makes it a cost-effective solution to eliminate diesel and emissions from our rail operations.
The project is hitting the accelerator for Fortescue to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. Additionally, it will improve productivity and reduce operating costs. Both companies are focusing their efforts on creating greener technologies with electrification systems and high-performance batteries.
THE OPERATING DIAGRAM
The train will leave loaded with a mass of 34,000 tons from the mine and will roll under its own weight using gravity on the slope. This will recharge the batteries installed on board the convoy which will be used to bring the train back to the mine.
Once complete, the Infinity Train will join Fortescue’s green fleet, which also includes hydrogen fuel cell mining trucks and ammonia-powered green trains, certainly a promising technology.
There are no technical details on how they plan to operate the Infinity Loop, but it will most likely be a highly optimized regenerative braking system combined, as Gaynes notes, with “the electric locomotive most efficient battery in the world”. Braking energy recovery systems aren’t new, but they’ve evolved steadily since the idea began to take shape in the late 19th century. Now they are used in all kinds of vehicles, from Formula 1 cars to urban bikes and, going back to trains, in the London Underground or the Delhi Underground.
London’s commuter rail technology saves 20% energy, while India claims to have reduced emissions from the Delhi Metro system by 90,000 tonnes of CO2 producing 112,500 megawatt hours between 2004 and 2007. the case of the Fortescue line, the ambition is much greater. Basically, your infinite train will not produce CO2 for its entire lifespan.
In simpler terms, Infinity is a perpetual motion machine that demonstrates the ingenious feat of conventional physics, the future of the planet depends on such innovative solutions.
BY JAVIER LOPEZ CASARIN