Management & Operations

Alstom Reaches its High-Speed Destiny with New Train

Posted on September 23, 2008 by Janna Starcic, Executive Editor

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 [IMAGE]MET9alstomagv-.jpg[/IMAGE] With air travel becoming increasingly more expensive and inconvenient, other transportation options are becoming more attractive. This has presented an opportunity for the rail industry to capitalize on. Alstom Transport has answered this call with its newest high-speed train offering — the AGV (Automotrice àGrande Vitesse). Touted as “the fastest train in the world,” according to Francois Lacôte, Alstom’s technical VP — the vehicle reaches speeds up to 225 mph. The AGV is the fourth generation of very high-speed train designed and delivered by the company.

With this new generation of high-speed trains, the idea is to capture market share of the airlines, the mode’s competitor, according to Eric Marie, VP, high speed for Alstom. “A trip from Paris to Toulouse would take two hours and 30 minutes compared to five,” he says. “We want to help customers capture that market.”

Aerodynamic design
The AGV train is specially designed to reach its maximum speed, by incorporating cutting-edge technologies and design to optimize its drag coefficient. “One of the main challenges that needed to be met was to clearly define the visual language of high speed,” says Xavier Allard, Alstom’s VP, design and styling. “This project gave Alstom the opportunity to create a very strong brand,” he says. “It’s very easy to recognize an Alstom.”

The aerodynamic design of the front canopy of the vehicle, inspired by the cockpit of a fighter aircraft, features a nosecone cast in one piece from the top of the windshield. The vehicle’s exterior design allows for ease of customization by customers for co-branding, says Allard. The modular interior can be outfitted to customer specifications including seating, luggage racks and trim.

Technological advances
In addition to its high-tech visual appeal, the AGV incorporates the extremely successful articulated trainset design used on all TGVs which are made up of interdependent cars linked by a bogie (truck). Where traditionally on the TGV, electronic power components were concentrated in the lead and rear-power cars taking up valuable space, the AGV has made a step forward, combining articulated architecture and distributed power (with electronic power components installed under passengers coaches), making all the space along the train available for passengers. “The new design distributes the power system throughout the entire trainset, freeing up 20 percent extra floor space for increased passenger capacity, as well as making power bogies more readily accessible”, says Laurent Baron, AGV platform director.

On a traditional, non-articulated trainset, cars sit on two bogies and are linked by couplings. A traditional 200 m train (six passenger cars and two power cars) would feature 16 bogies, while the AGV is made up of 11 interdependent cars linked by a bogie featuring 12 bogies total — 25 percent less. The reduced number of bogies also allows for enhanced aerodynamics, as well as reduced maintenance costs, Lacôte says. Safety is also a key advantage of the articulated design, which provides rigidity to the trainset allowing it to remain in formation in most derailment events. In other words, the trainset is unlikely to break-up with the risk that cars could pile up.

“An advantage of the articulated architecture is the comfort for passengers,” says Lacôte. Because the bogies are a source of noise and vibration, the new design places bogies far from passenger seating areas.

Other technological advancements featured on the AGV include the use of permanent magnet synchronous motors. These permanent magnet motors are more compact and energy efficient than previous generations of design. These magnets, which create the magnetic field necessary for the motor to function, help eliminate a big part of energy losses of traditional electric motors. Its more compact design occupies one-third less space than asynchronous motors.

The power electronic components are based on the latest technology of IGBTs, that are more compact and energy efficient, and allow the train to operate under four types of voltage: (European) 1500, 3000 and 15000, as well as 25000 volts, which is more widely used in other parts of the world.

The vehicle’s braking system combines a rheostatic brake with a regenerative braking system, which allows for unused power to be sent to the national grid.


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