Power converters for rail vehicles: the key to efficient electrification

In the rail sector, electrification has become a priority to reduce the environmental footprint and improve energy efficiency. Power converters play a key role in this transition, enabling rail vehicles to operate more sustainably and efficiently. These sophisticated devices convert and regulate electrical energy to power auxiliary systems, such as lighting, air conditioning, control systems, or the traction system (motor).

Forsee Power’s LINK power converters are adaptable to all types of rolling stock, and can be mounted on the vehicle roof or chassis.

Whether supplying auxiliary systems or traction systems, LINK converters from Forsee Power have been developed to include the following features.

+ Galvanic isolation

+ Start-up on discharged battery

+ Remote diagnostics

+ Natural or forced air cooling

The key role of power converters in rail vehicles

A power converter is a complex electronic device that transforms electrical energy from one form to another. In the context of rail vehicles, the power converter converts the electrical energy supplied by the main source (e.g. the catenary, an energy storage system or an on-board generator) into currents and voltages adapted to the needs of the auxiliary systems on board the train or the traction system.

Auxiliary power converters

The fundamental role of the auxiliary power converter is to efficiently distribute electrical energy to power these auxiliary systems, while ensuring the stability of the electrical network on board the train. This generally involves converting electrical energy into alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC), depending on the specific requirements of the various auxiliary systems.

These auxiliary systems typically include interior lighting, ventilation, air conditioning, communication systems, control and signalling systems, and other devices required for passenger operation and comfort.

Power converters

Modern rail traction systems rely on electric motors to propel trains. These motors require a specific power supply to operate efficiently. This is where power converters come into play.

They are responsible for converting the electrical energy supplied by various sources (such as overhead lines, batteries or on-board generators) into a form of current and voltage suitable for the traction motors.

The main purpose of power converters is to provide precise control over the speed and torque of the electric motor. Thanks to this flexible control, trains can start off smoothly, accelerate optimally, brake efficiently and save energy along the way.

The advantages of converters 

The use of auxiliary power converters in rail vehicles offers several major advantages:

🔋 Improved energy efficiency: auxiliary power converters ensure better use of electrical energy by distributing it in a targeted way to auxiliary systems, thus avoiding energy wastage.

✔ Precise control: power converters offer precise control over the speed, torque and direction of electric motors. This enables better management of train movement, improving passenger safety and comfort.

🔇 🌎 Significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and noise: by electrifying auxiliary systems, trains reduce their dependence on diesel engines or other polluting energy sources, thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. Compared with traditional traction systems based on diesel engines, rail vehicles equipped with power converters generate less noise, helping to reduce noise pollution in urban areas.

⚙ Maintenance made easy: power converters eliminate the need for complex, wear-prone mechanical parts, reducing the maintenance requirements of rail traction systems.

Thermal management of power converters

One of the technological challenges facing converters is managing the heat generated by these devices. Since converters work by transforming electrical energy, they can produce a significant amount of heat, which must be dissipated efficiently to avoid failure.

That’s why Forsee Power offers thermal management using either natural or forced air, depending on the vehicle’s geographical area of operation. Proven over many years and on a number of vehicles, the thermal management developed by Forsee Power ensures highly efficient heat dissipation.

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If you would like to find out more about our LINK range of power converters, please contact us.