Unveiling Hitachi ABB Power Grids

With COP26 around the corner, it is hardly surprising that there is increasing attention on how we improve energy efficiency across all areas of society and the economy, including transport.

Hitachi Rail has been at the vanguard of developing new rail technology.
Hitachi Rail has been at the vanguard of developing new rail technology.

Throughout the recent Scottish Parliament election campaign, all the main parties spoke of the need for innovation and dynamism as we seek to tackle the climate change and transition to cleaner and better forms of energy. But what does this mean in practice?

One area that the Scottish Government wants to target is rail. 76 per cent of passenger and 45 per cent of freight journeys have made the switch from diesel to electric but Scotland has set its sights even higher. It wants all passenger rail services to be zero-emission by 2035. In order to do this businesses need to provide new innovations and technology, and quickly.

More efficient energy usage

Hitachi Rail has been at the vanguard of developing new rail technology.

But tackling climate change and reaching net-zero is a shared endeavour – one that requires partnership and collaboration.

It is in this vein that, in July 2020, Hitachi and ABB, a global pioneer in power grids, came together to establish a joint venture which stands ready to meet the challenge of delivering greener transport – Hitachi ABB Power Grids.

The joint venture is committed to delivering power grid solutions – an energy source which can adapt and adjust to changes in usage – to power trains. Ultimately, this will mean more efficient energy usage and will support the UK and Scottish Government’s decarbonisation targets.

“We possess the expertise to really accelerate Scotland’s rail decarbonisation ambitions” notes Jay Mehta, Rail Sector Manager at Hitachi ABB Power Grids.

“Over time, as a result of our commitment to continual investment in research, our power grid technologies have become best in class in delivering clean and efficient power in a safe manner. Our partnership with Hitachi Rail represents a step change in rail energy efficiency and will ensure Scotland’s railways make a very real contribution in the decarbonisation journey.”

Moving on from diesel

Both electrification and battery power are key to removing diesel trains.

But only with access to reliable, renewable power will greener and smarter trains become the norm. Hitachi ABB Power Grids is already collaborating globally on over 25 projects and exploring solutions across a range of differing transport networks in Japan, Italy, India and Norway.

“Providing a supply of clean power is only part of the solution,” adds Mehta. “With Hitachi Rail’s expertise in developing battery train technology globally which has proven credentials in cutting emissions, we are able to offer a genuinely integrated solution; energy efficient rolling stock, backed up by an intelligent, renewable and reliable source of energy.”

Hitachi Rail and Hitachi ABB Power Grids’ partnership will allow an understanding of the relationship between grid and train to be embedded from an early stage, helping ensure that both are maximised to their full potential for the benefit of Scotland’s train operators, passengers and environment.

What does all this mean for passengers?

The combination of the complimentary technologies being pioneered by the two companies provides the very real prospect of pushing zero-emission travel to every corner of Scotland’s rail network.

Where overhead wires exist or can be easily built, Hitachi’s trains can run on electricity, but where it is not possible, or simply too expensive, to build electricity lines, the trains can run on battery power. This technology can operate for up to 90km, with the ability to recharge while still moving under overhead lines.

Lorna McDonald, Hitachi Rail’s Head of Commuter Sales, underlined the benefits of collaboration from an environmental perspective, noting that “the transformative potential of this technology is clear and really chimes with the direction of travel we are seeing both at Holyrood, but also from Transport Scotland”.

She adds: “Last summer, the Transport Minister announced the target of decarbonising all of Scotland’s rail passenger services by 2035. This wasn’t simply ambitious target setting – it is genuinely within reach as a result of the types of solutions being offered by Hitachi Rail and Hitachi ABB Power Grids. This collaborative approach clearly brings results; all we need now is the commitment to support its widescale delivery across Scotland.

“Scotland has already taken progressive steps to help incentivise the rail sector to play its part in delivering net-zero. With the combined skillset of Hitachi Rail and Hitachi ABB Power Grids, we are poised to help meet that 2035 target and support the Scottish Government to go beyond it.”