Ricardo congratulates Edinburgh Trams on Global Light Rail awards recognition
Edinburgh Trams – the light rail system operator of the Scottish capital – was ‘Highly Commended’ at the Global Light Rail awards in the Environmental Sustainability Initiative category, for the successful introduction of the SmartDrive system, co-developed with the University of Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education (BCRRE) and Ricardo Rail
SmartDrive applies a mix of train trajectory optimization analysis and on-site driver training to reduce energy usage costs on light rail, metro and self-contained heavy rail routes. The system is capable of delivering a reduction of up to 25 percent in traction energy costs.
The SmartDrive process begins with the modelling of individual routes to find the most appropriate train movement sequences under different scenarios, such as inclement weather. This analysis is then the basis for identifying where certain driving techniques – such as coasting and braking - can reduce energy use along the route.
Once tested under true operational conditions, the evidence is compiled into a bespoke driver training programme specific to each route. With no in-cab display – and thus compatible with systems that use line-of-sight driving – the focus of SmartDrive is less on instructing drivers and more on empowering them to apply efficient behaviours as they see fit and when conditions allow.
For a typical 1.2 km tram journey on a section of segregated track, for example, SmartDrive has previously revealed how up to 500 metres can be travelled by coasting. Furthermore, the early pilot schemes have shown how drivers were often surprised by the coasting distance that can be achieved.
With more efficient transitions between acceleration, coasting and braking, passengers also benefit from smoother rides, whilst less frequent braking reduces wear and tear and thus requires less maintenance.
Simulation testing on the Edinburgh Tram network, as well as light rail systems in China, have demonstrated a potential reduction in traction power use of between 10 and 25 percent, offering the potential of significant energy cost savings.
SmartDrive was the 2017 winner of Impetus, Ricardo Rail’s own internal innovation competition where it competed against other ideas for development funding, leading to its early adoption by Edinburgh Trams. Now marketed by Ricardo Rail as ‘DriveSmart’ the team is currently talking to a number of operators about future applications of the system.