Electric Trains, a possibility?

It is becoming clear that as the automotive industry redirects traditions into electric futures, other industries are being dragged along for the ride. It is obvious that other large carbon based industries are the most scrutinised for electrical upgrades. However there is a reason heavy industries lag behind. 

Large industries such as trains, trucks, planes and earth moving, are progressing slowly in the electrical revolution. The science behind this slow movement is limited capability and development of electric motors. 

Much alike personal vehicles, these industries have traditionally relied on combustion engines and the incredible power they can possess. These engines have become particularly ingrained in these industries due to power ratios and requirements from these machines. 

Two pathways exist for Australian electric trains. The first is the most simple yet unachievable. This would be to install electrical cables above all the railway lines in Australia and use similar trains to those currently in the city. This is simple because the technology exists and the appropriate power can be given to the trains to pull their heavy loads across the continent. However, the infrastructure needed and maintenance would be unachievable. 

The second option is self-contained “electric trains”, much like the self-contained electric cars hitting our roads today. This snag has been reached already in the trucking industry. It has become clear that batteries and stored energy cannot give the required power for high levels of torque. Currently the technology isn’t there. 

A 30 year electrification program has been unveiled in the UK, in a move to decarbonise the country’s railways. New Civil Engineer explored the Trains Fit For the Future report, highlighting the key components of shifting to greener technologies. As electric motor and battery technology increases in power and efficiency, and decreases in size, we can expect many industries to become decarbonised as they move away from their traditional combustion engines.


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