During the month of September, I was very fortunate to participate in an American delegation to Germany on “Energy Efficient Public Transit.”  The delegation, sponsored by the German American Chambers of Commerce and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, met with a variety of entities that focus on providing innovation in the transportation industry, several of which I will feature over the coming posts.

 

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the European Innotrans conference in Berlin.  While visiting over 100 booths, I was able to interview several companies on their new ideas that would lead to more efficient and greener technologies for the public transit industry.  However, I was struck by how focused the “emerging technology” efforts are around vehicle weight.  The reason is clear – fuel usage is the single largest carbon contributor for any public transit entity, so reducing the fuel use through weight reduction and streamlining is an imperative.  Several manufacturers, including Bombardier, Siemens, Stadler, GE, Hitachi, Hyundai, and others, focused on reducing weight by being creative in the bogeys and the heavy industrial components of rail cars.  They also are spending a significant amount of time on new composites – which is also a focus of US APTA Bus Committee members.  Companies like Wawrzaszek ISS featured in the image provide composite materials designed to reduce the weight of internal car components and shells.  These newer materials significantly reduce weight without compromising on the safety of the vehicles.

 

Interestingly, I expected to see emerging technologies that were not yet adopted in the US given that the European market is more robust and strives to achieve compliance with a more rigorous environmental standard.  However, there were few vendors that offered a dramatic shift in technology.  Instead, it felt like all were attacking each and every component of the vehicle for any opportunity to reduce the weight.

 

One exception was the General Electric booth which featured the first EPA Tier 4 locomotive to hit the market – their Evolution Diesel locomotive.  While this vehicle is targeted exclusively toward the freight market right now, they did commit that they are in development for an equivalent vehicle for commuter rail.