Power Electronics and Energy

Rail decarbonisation requires primarily the introduction of electric trains and electrical power infrastructure with improved energy efficiency.

The rail industry’s carbon footprint derives from energy used for traction i.e., running trains and non-traction equipment such as stations, operations, signalling systems, and using electricity generated mostly from burning fossil fuels. The energy consumption from fossil fuels can be reduced by controlling with power converters the power flows between networks for traction and those for non-traction use. The control of the converters exploit synergies between the two networks, utilising the regenerative braking of trains for the local public grid and supporting of the traction network with renewable energy sources. Our researchers are experts in all aspects of power electronics for railway systems, and we are involved in a large number of UK and international projects. One of our recent successes in this area is developing and delivering a new smart soft open point in collaboration with Metro de Madrid and other European academic and industrial partners.

We are also investigating the use of high voltage DC for rail electrification systems, exploring solutions to embed electric railways in micro grids fed by renewable power sources. Railways will be able to play an even more important role in future transport systems if they can be more integrated with road transport. There is an evident opportunity to integrate electric railways with electric mobility to achieve 100% clean journeys. This would be facilitated by adding a sufficient number of charging points at railway station car parks and by using clean electricity sources such as solar photovoltaics to generate electricity.

Research areas include:

  • Boost-inverters for fuel cell trains
  • Hybrid power trains with fuel cells and batteries using dual three-phase machines
  • Power converters for battery trains with integrated battery management systems
  • Traction substations with static frequency converters
  • Medium voltage DC railways
  • Inverting substations for DC railways
  • Smart Soft Open Points for electric railways and power distribution grids
  • Rail-to-grid energy management systems
  • Vehicle-to-grid to feed station and signalling loads
  • Fast charging of electric vehicles from traction power supply

 If you would like to get in touch, please email: railway@contacts.bham.ac.uk.