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Energy Storage That May Be Too Good to Be

True: Comparison Between Wayside Storage
and Reversible Thyristor Controlled
Rectifiers for Heavy Rail
Article in IEEE Vehicular Technology Magazine December 2013
DOI: 10.1109/MVT.2013.2283350




1 author:
Vitaly Gelman
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Retrieved on: 06 September 2016

Energy Storage That May

Be Too Good to Be True


Comparison Between Wayside Storage and Reversible Thyristor

Controlled Rectifiers for Heavy Rail

Vitaly Gelman

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MVT.2013.2283350

Date of publication: 7 November 2013

70 |||

here has been substantial interest in the traction community for using
wayside energy storage systems (ESSs) to better use train braking
energy, thus reducing energy costs and peak power as well as voltage
stabilization. An alternative solution to reach the same goals is using
recuperating (also called reversible) traction power substations such as
reversible thyristor controlled rectifiers (RTCRs). This article compares
advantages and disadvantages of ESSs of three most common types
flywheels, batteries, and supercapacitorsand recuperating substations. The
analysis takes into account size, capital cost, the round trip energy losses,
and energy savings for heavy rail applications.
Heavy rail trains accumulate substantial mechanical energy during
acceleration. There are two ways to use this energy: 1) using recuperating
traction substations and 2) using ESSs.

1556-6072/13/$31.002013ieee IEEE vehicular technology magazine | DECEMBER 2013

The recuperating traction substations are complex

systems that affect the power grid by injecting harmonics and reactive power. The power authorities are obviously concerned with the potential effect recuperating
substations would have on the power grid integrity and
safetyharmonics, power factor, back feed to the ac network, operation under different faultsand are cautious
of possible complications.
The energy storage alternative is the opposite; the
concept is very simple and easy to understand since
we are all familiar with rechargeable batteries. Using
this method, there is no negative effect on the power
grid, we just store the braking energy in an appropriate
can and then use it to accelerate the train by reducing
both energy consumption and peak power. In addition
to batteries, we now have new ways to store energy:
flywheels and supercapacitors. The energy storage appears to be a win-win solution. However, a closer look
shows it to be cost prohibitive, while the reversible
substations have substantially lower cost and do not
create network problems.

The ESS cost is about US$1 million per MW

for all technologies, four to ten times higher
than the cost of a reversible converter.
by the traction substation [3, Table 5]. To better use braking energy, we can consider energy storage and recuperating substations.
By using braking energy, we can also lower peak demand power. In some situations, the demand charges
can be comparable or even exceed the energy charges.
Furthermore, we can improve train performance by supplying additional power during train acceleration.
Ideally, we should place ESSs right on the train, reducing rail losses and providing maximum energy utilization.
Hybrid cars and busses use mobile storage efficiently to
improve gas mileage. The light rail system in Manheim
(Germany) uses Bombardiers MITRAC mobile ESS with
reported energy savings exceeding 25%. However, based
on the reported cost recovery of 15 years and with a supercapacitor life of ten years, the main benefit appears
to be an ability to operate without catenaries for a limited distance [9, p. 18].
For heavy rail systems, mobile storage is not practical, economically or technically, because of the large
amount of mechanical braking energy and, consequently,
high cost of energy storage components, as well as the
size/weight of mobile storage, and train modification
costs. Therefore, we limit our consideration to stationary ESSs and recuperating substations.
An alternative approach to using ESSs would be to add
energy recuperating converters to traction substations
and transfer the recuperated energy to the power grid.
Essentially, we would use the power grid as a huge ESS
instead of building our own. It is analogous to depositing
your money in a bank instead of your own piggy bank.
Since the power grid always has loads, it can easily absorb the recuperated braking energy. Many states now
require utilities to accept the power from customers and
bill them on the net energy (net metering).
Since the power demand is typically measured as a
running average over 15 min intervals, a recuperating
substation should cut the demand charges as well. Even
for traction substation with individual metering the time
between train braking and acceleration is typically 30 s,
well below 15 min. The power demand reduction would
be even more apparent for a system with a combined
metering where ac distribution lines belong to the transportation authority (e.g., BART). Using RTCR as a recuperating converter adds an advantage of improving train
voltage [1, p. 2].

All modern trains have regenerating capability and can
supply mechanical energy to the dc bus during braking. For a typical ten-car train with M7 cars, traveling at
60 mi/h, the mechanical energy is 234 MJ [1] (1 kWh =
3.6 MJ). Using this energy could provide substantial
economic benefits, and it is possible to get up to 80%
of mechanical e
nergy converted back to dc power at
train terminals. For an M7 car train from the example
above, up to 165 MJ (46 kWh) can be recovered back to
the dc bus.
If there is another train accelerating nearby, it can
absorb the braking energy and reduce the overall system power consumption. Theoretically, we could capture almost all recuperated energy if we could always
have another train accelerating at the same location
and at the same time that our train is braking. However,
this is impossible to achieve in practice. Even if there
is a train that could absorb regenerated energy somewhere in the system, the amount of network-absorbed
power is limited by the rails resistance, proportional to
a distance between the source (braking train) and the
receiver (accelerating) train. Therefore, time and space
distances between breaking and accelerating trains
determine how much braking energy the dc network
can absorb.
With short headway of 2.53 min during peak
hours, there are many trains running close to each
other. Consequently, the braking energy is transferred
efficiently, and the lost energy is small, only 810% of
the total energy.
With long headway of 30 min during off hours, the lost
energy could be up to 60% of the traction power supplied

DECEMBER 2013 | IEEE vehicular technology magazine

Sizing of ESSs and Recuperating Inverters

To size energy storage alternatives, we need to determine required power (MW), energy (MJ), and the number

||| 71

Acceleration (mi/h/s)
Speed (mi/h/10)
Train Power (MW)
Distance (km)


mi/h/s (km)

mi/h/10 (MW)



5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

Figure 1 Train acceleration.

of chargedischarge cycles. For recuperating substations, the power is the only sizing parameter.
Figures 1 and 2 show estimated ten-car M7 train
currents during acceleration and braking taken from
[1, Figs. 4 and 6]. For both figures, the right scale is for
acceleration and distance.
We can see that the braking power of the ten-car M7
train converted to dc bus is about 4 MW. Therefore, if we
want to capture all of its braking energy, we need to have
an ESS(s) or regenerating substation with a combined
power of 4 MW and an energy absorption capability of
165 MJ; two or more ESSs or regenerating dc/ac converters can be distributed between adjacent substations.
The actual power and energy required would be
lower because of network absorption, depending on
headway and train schedules. During the peak hours,
the significant power and energy is absorbed by the
network, during off hours network absorption is minimal, but the average power is small because of long

mi/h/10 (MW)







5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60

Figure 2 Train deceleration.

mi/h/s (km)

Acceleration (mi/h/s)
Speed (mi/h/10)
Train Power (MW)
Distance (km)


The amount of recuperated energy by an ESS depends

both on its power (MW) and energy (MJ) limitations. The
most cost-effective values are below train braking values of 4 MW and 165 MJ. This way, we might significantly
reduce the capital cost while only marginally reducing
the energy savings.
To determine optimal parameters, we need to run system simulation with the actual train schedule and system
parameters. For our evaluation, we will use a maximum
power of 3 MW and energy of 75 MJ, and these values
are comparable to several estimates of ESS parameters
required for heavy rail systems. In [2], the estimates for
eight car train are 34 MW; in [3], the estimates are 1.5 MW
for trains with maximum power of 4 MW (versus maximum power of 7 MW for our train); and in [11], the ESS
power for metro is around 2 MW.
For batteries, the number of charge/discharge cycles
is a very important parameter. To estimate the cycle
numbers required, we assume the ESS operates 20 h a
day, 365 days a year with headway 3 min for 4 h, 6 min for
8 h, and 15 min for 8 h, arriving at 192 cycles per day
(the total number of the cycles for trains going in one
direction is 20*4 + 10*8 + 4*8 = 192).
Doubling the number of cycles to account for trains
in both directions and multiplying it by 365, we get
140,160 cycles/year; for 20 years of operation, we need
2.8 million cycles. In real operation, the depth of required cycles (amount of stored energy) and thus their
equivalent number would be a few times lower due to
network absorption, especially during peak hours with
short headway.
To evaluate different alternatives, let us compare
systems capable of absorbing 3-MW power, 75-MJ

(21-kWh) energy, and 20 years of service life.

Energy Storage Systems

Existing implementations of ESSs for heavy rail systems
use three energy storage technologies: batteries, super
capacitors, and flywheels. The fourth technology
superconducting magnetic energy storageis still in the
experimental stage.
In evaluating ESSs, we will consider the following parameters: power, energy, cycles, service and calendar
life, size, weight, cost, and round-trip efficiency (RTE).
RTE is determined by energy losses during charge
discharge cycle. These losses affect the savings in two
ways: first, the heat produced by the losses needs to be
removed at an additional expense, especially if ESS is located underground; second, they directly reduce usable
recovered energy.

The oldest energy storage technology is a battery. Batteries provide very high energy density but have limited
absorbed power density and a limited number of

72 ||| IEEE vehicular technology magazine | DECEMBER 2013

chargedischarge cycles. The battery ESS (BESS) for

traction application requires high power in both charge
and discharge, while the required amount of energy is
low. This is similar to an operation of a battery in a mild/
soft hybrid electric vehicle (HEV), where the battery
stores braking energy to assist the engine during acceleration and going uphill.
One advantage of BESSs over other systems is high
stored energy, up to 100 times more than other storage
technologiesflywheels and super capacitors. This
energy can be used as a backup source during power
outages. The BESS has long relationship with railroads.
The BESS was used in Japan between 1912 and 1927 to
reduce peak dc supply current, thus improving the reliability of rotating ac/dc converters [14].
There are different types of batteries, the most common ones are lead-acid, nickelmetal hydride (Ni-MH),
and lithium-ion (Li-ion). The lead-acid battery is the oldest technology and has the lowest cost per watthour and
kilowatt. However, its drawbacks are a limited number
of cycles and a low charging current due to sulfation,
limited service life, environmental concerns, and lower
efficiency due to low coulombic efficiency.
The regular lead-acid battery has four to five times
fewer cycles than the Ni-MH battery. New types of leadacid batteries (UltraBattery by CSIRO, ALABC, Furakawa)
with carbon added to negative electrodes shows cycling
capability exceeding that of the Ni-MH battery and a
high charging current [8]. These batteries go through
extensive testing in HEVs. The battery market for HEVs
is much bigger than for wayside energy storage, and the
manufacturers concentrate their efforts there. However,
if it goes into mass production, the same battery can be
potentially used for traction application.
Ni-MH batteries were commercialized in the 1980s
and improved in 1990s. They offer the advantages of a
long service life, high energy (high chargedischarge
current), high cycle durability, and low toxicity. Ni-MH
batteries have successfully been used for HEVs for more
than ten yearsone example is the Toyota Prius with
batteries manufactured by PEVE [16]. Kawasaki is marketing its particular version of Ni-MH batteries called
Gigacell for traction application.
Some installations use a dc/dc converter to interface
batteries to traction dc bus to provide optimal charging.
Both dc bus voltage changes caused by utility regulation
and temperature variations affect the state of charge
(SOC). When SOC is 100%, the battery is fully charged. If
a fully charged battery is exposed to increased voltage
or temperature, the battery becomes overcharged, leading to a dramatic decrease of its service life, an increase
of internal pressure, and serious damage (leakage, explosion, etc.).
Kawasaki recommends connecting their battery
directly across the dc bus without a dc/dc converter,

DECEMBER 2013 | IEEE vehicular technology magazine

Active cooling systems of either air or

liquid are necessary because of the losses
in the supercapacitors and dc/dc converter.

achieving RTE improvement (no losses in the dc/dc converter) and no additional electromagnetic interference.
To avoid overcharging with direct connection, we need
to select fully charged battery voltage corresponding to
+5% incoming ac line voltage; then, under nominal voltage condition, we get an SOC of below 10%. Another option would be monitoring the SOC and disconnecting the
BESS when overcharged.
The Kawasaki Gigacell has been used recently in a
test in New York for wayside rail application. Unfortunately, [4] does not include data on losses, battery
life time, SOC under typical and worst-case conditions,
battery monitoring system, train voltage improvement
under different conditions, and energy savings over a
period of time.
The calendar life of Ni-MH batteries is normally assumed
to be ten years. The battery service life (number of cycles)
increases with decreasing depth of discharge (DOD). By selecting the number of parallel batteries in a BESS for a given
BESS current, we can change the DOD of each battery to
give us a service life close to its calendar life.
With our sizing parameters of absorbed energy (75 MJ)
and power (3 MW), the equivalent charging time for ESSs
is 75/3 = 25 s. With a 25-s pulse and 2-C current, the DOD
is 1.4% (25*2/3,600), and with 5 C current, the DOD is 3.5%
Kawasaki [7] shows the number of cycles only for
0.33% DOD, but if we use the formula for Ni-MH battery life cycles from [17, p. 16], we get 390,000 cycles
at 3.5% DOD, 1.6 million cycles at 1.4% DOD and 14.7
million cycles at 0.33% DOD. Kawasaki showed 2 million cycles for 0.33% DOD [7], seven times lower than
calculated by the formula. If the ratio (seven) is the
same for 3.5% DOD, the number of cycles will be 55,000
at 5 C current.
The 390,000 cycles might be sufficient for ten years
because the majority of energy during peak hours is
transferred between the trains. Therefore, the charge
discharge cycles are shallow with smaller DOD. If we
need to increase the number of cycles, we should connect more batteries in parallel. This way, at the same
BESS current, we decrease each battery current and its
DOD, thus increasing the number of cycles.
Let us size the BESS using a 30K4 Gigacell battery [7]
with 36 V and 141 Ah as a building block. To determine
the number of parallel connected batteries we assume
the battery current during the charge/discharge cycle
equals the maximum recommended current of 5 C to arrive at a calculated number of 390,000 cycles.

||| 73

Battery and supercapacitor ESSs need

to keep their temperature below 40C
to avoid shortening service life.
For the 30K4 battery, 5 C current is 700 A, and to get a
current of 4.2 kA (3 MW), we need six batteries in parallel. If we connect the BESS across the 720-V dc bus, we
will need 20 batteries in series (36 * 20 = 720 V), for a
total of 20 * 6 = 120 batteries.
Kawasaki [7] shows a Gigacell energy efficiency of 85%
for 10-s pulses with current changing from 2 C to 0.4 C. For
the 5 C current, the energy efficiency is 75% (characteristics of 30150 type, at 80% SOC; charging voltage is 47 V,
and discharge voltage is 35 V), for a 2-C current, the energy efficiency is 85%.
At the maximum battery current of 700 A (5 C), we
get 75% RTE, but since in real application the average
current will be lower during peak hours, we would get a
better average RTE, probably around 80%.
The manufacturer indicated the price of the 30K4 battery is US$25,000US$30,000. That would make it US$3 million to US$3.6 million for just the batteries, not including the
battery management system or packaging; we use US$3.6
million for our BESS cost estimate. If the calendar life of a
battery is ten years, the cost of the battery for 20 years is
US$7.2 million. The BESS weight is 30 tons, the size of the
battery bank itself is 1.3 m # 7 m # 1.8 m with a footprint
of 9.1 m2 or 101 ft2.
According to [7] and [16], Gigacell is more expensive
(US$5,0006,000/kWh versus US$1,0001,500/kWh) and
bulkier (21 Wh/kg versus 46 Wh/kg and 52 Wh/l versus
81 Wh/l) when compared to a Ni-MH battery for HEVs.
Theoretically, by using HEV-type batteries, we can reduce cost almost three times, although we will need a
more powerful cooling system. Our cost estimate for
BESS using HEV batteries is about US$2.7 million for a
service life of 20 years.
The Li-ion battery provides very high energy density,
but its cell are unforgiving for overcharge, resulting in
cell damage or even in a thermal runaway ending with
fire [18, p. 136]. The Li-ion battery requires cell balancing and chargedischarge control to prevent overcharge.
The service life of Li-ion batteries is less than that of
Ni-MH, but the gap is closing. Presently, the Li-ion costs
more than Ni-MH, but this is expected to change in a few
years. The Li-ion battery has been used in the BESS. In
Japan, in several systems in operation since 20062007
[14, Table III], a small Li-ion system was also installed at
SEPTA [13].

General Notes on BESS

Batteries, being chemical devices depending on the travel of ions, are sensitive to temperature. Increased temperature above 40 C reduces the service and calendar

battery life. Lower temperature reduces power and energy capabilities of the batteries. Because of the substantial power losses in the batteries, an active cooling
system is often necessary, either air or liquid. Generally,
low temperature is not a problem since the losses in the
battery will increase its temperature, but in cold climates, it might be necessary to provide heating to avoid
the battery freezing.

Supercapacitor ESSs (SESSs) from a system standpoint
are similar to BESSs. Their advantages are as follows: a
high number of chargedischarge cycles, a high current
both for charge and discharge, and better RTE. The disadvantage is low energy density, i.e., high cost per MJ
of energy storage. The cost per MJ decreased significantly during recent years, but it appears to have flattened out.
We must allow the supercapacitor voltage to change
during the chargedischarge cycle to use energy storage. To regulate power flow while the supercapacitor
voltage changes, we need a dc/dc converter between
the traction dc bus and the supercapacitor. The bigger
the voltage change, the higher the ratio between the capacitor current and dc bus current and, consequently,
the cost of the dc/dc converter. We need to provide
voltage equalization between series connected supercapacitors as well.
A good compromise is to allow the supercapacitor
voltage to change between 50% and 100% of its rated
voltage. Thus we will use 75% of its energy. To provide
capacitor current control with standard chopper, the
capacitor voltage should be below minimum bus voltage.
As a first approximation, let us assume the minimum dc
bus voltage is 500 Vdc, the train regeneration voltage at the
SESS is 800 Vdc, the regeneration power (charging power
for SESS) is constant 3 MW (800 V, 3.75 kA), and headway
is 5 min. At lower headway, the duty cycle is higher, but
the network absorbs the higher portion of the regeneration
current. Let us select the maximum supercapacitor voltage
of 500 Vdc and the minimum voltage of 250 Vdc, assume
also the supercapacitor charging time is 25 s.
Under those conditions during charging time the
supercapacitor current is (see Supercapacitor RMS
Current Calculation)
I CRMS - chrg = 1.36

3, 000 kW
= 1.36
= 8.16 kA.
VC max
500 V

Assuming the discharging process has the same

power and duration (25 s) as the charging one, we get
cycle capacitor root-mean-square (RMS) current for 5 min
I CRMS = I CRMS - chrg

2 $ 25 = 8.16 kA

1 = 3.33 kA ac.

74 ||| IEEE vehicular technology magazine | DECEMBER 2013

Supercapacitor RMS Current Calculation

terminals Vd max, and the regeneration power (charging power
for SESS) is constant Preg = Vd max I dreg .
If we neglect losses during charging time from 1/2 VC max to
VC max, we get an energy balance

The energy stored in the supercapacitor is proportional to

its voltage squared. We must allow the supercapacitor voltage to change during the chargedischarge cycle to use the
energy storage function in the supercapacitor ESS (SESS). It
is customary to use a bidirectional dc/dc converter to control
energy flow.
The bigger the voltage change, the higher the ratio
between the capacitor current and dc bus current and, consequently, the cost of the dc/dc. A good compromise is to
allow the supercapacitor voltage to change between 50%
and 100% of its rated voltage; then, we will use 75% of its
energy storage. To provide capacitor current control with
standard chopper, the capacitor voltage should be below
minimum bus voltage.
Neglecting the voltage ripples and losses in the dc/dc converter, and assuming continuous current operation, we get
Vd l d = VC l C
V = cV ; I = 1 V ,

CV 2C max
+ Preg t,
where C is supercapacitor capacitance and t is time.
Knowing the capacitor voltage as a function of time we can
find the current I C and calculate the supercapacitor RMS current during the charging process
IC =

1 + at

ing a charging cycle for time from 0 to T

I 2CRMS = 1


Preg 2
I 2C (t) dt = 1 c
T VC max



1 dt =
+ at

Preg 2
Preg 2
m # du = 4 In (4) c
= 1 c
aT VC max 1 u
VC max

I CRMS = 1.36
VC max

in capacitor voltage (see Supercapacitor RMS Current

Calculation). At half the current, we can expect the
supercapacitor losses to drop five times, boosting efficiency to 97% and RTE to 94%.
The service life of Maxwell module at 40 C is 7.5 years,
at 25 C, it is ten years [19]. Since we have a conservative
design, we will keep the overheat well below 15 C, and
providing adequate air-conditioning, we can keep the average temperature between 25 and 40 C to get service
life close to ten years.
We can estimate the budgetary cost of a 3-MW, 75-MJ
SESS using the Maxwell module BMOD0063P125 with
a price of US$5,500. With 204 modules, the bank cost is
US$5,500*204 = US$1,122,000. Assuming the cost of the dc/
dc converter and voltage equalizing circuit to be about
US$250,000 and another US$150,000 for packaging and
cooling brings the components cost of the SESS to US$1.52
million. Since the module life is ten years, the components
cost for 20 years of service life will be US$2.64 million (1.52 +
1.12 = 2.64). The estimated size of the SESS unit is 2.5 m #
15 m # 2 m, with a footprint of 37.5 m2 or 417 ft2.
Two big SESS systems with a rating of 2.56 MW and 25
MJ were installed at Seibu Railway Co., Ltd., in Japan in
2007, however no cost data were provided [14].
Another example of a commercial SESS product is EnerGstor made by Bombardier, with energy

To estimate the cost and RTE, let us use Maxwells

module for transportation BMOD0063P125, 125 Vdc, 63 F,
18 m X equivalent series resistance (ESR) as a building
block [19]. Its usable energy is 370 kJ (for voltage changing from 50% to 100%), and its usable RMS current
to keep the overheating to 15 C is 140 A ac when the
module is new. Since the ESR can increase 100% during
service life [19, p. 2], we have to reduce the maximum
current to 100 A ac.
To get 75 MJ of energy, we need 204 modules (at 0.37 MJ
per module). To get 500 V, we need four modules in the
series. This gives us 51 modules in parallel with a current
handling capability of 5.1 kA ac (100 A*51 = 5.1 kA) in the
worst case, well above the estimated 3.33 kA ac.
The ESR of the capacitor unit is 18*4/51 = 1.41 m X ,
giving average capacitor bank losses during charging at
3-MW power level
TPcap = 8.16 2 $ 1.41 = 93.9 kW 

or 3.1%.
Assuming a dc/dc converter efficiency of 98%, we
get a total efficiency of 95% and RTE of 90%. At lower
power levels during peak hours when the current drops
because of network receptivity, the losses will decrease both due to current reduction and an increase

DECEMBER 2013 | IEEE vehicular technology magazine

VC max
1 + 2Preg t
4 CV 2C max

where a = (2Preg /CV 2C max), at the end of charging at time T

aT = 3/4.
Now we can calculate the capacitor RMS current I CRMS dur-

where Vd , I d , VC , I C are dc bus and supercapacitor voltages

and currents, respectively, and c is a duty cycle.
Let us assume the minimum dc bus voltage equals the maximum capacitor voltage VC max, the minimum capacitor voltage
1/2VC max, the dc bus regeneration voltage at the SESS

Vd I d
VC max

||| 75

The energy savings achieved by adding

ESSs to diode rectifier substations provide
a payback time of well over 30 years.
storage between 0.25 and 5 kWh [22]. EnerGstor comes
in two versions: one with air cooling and the other
with water cooling. EnerGstor has a modular design
allowing configuration for a particular project requirement by simply adding and removing power cells.
Bombardier has built two prototype units, 1 kWh
(3.6 MJ) and 2 kWh (7.2 MJ). Their sizes are 2 m #
1.8 m # 1.8 m (580 kW) and 2.5 m # 1.8 m # 1.8 m
(1,160 kW), respectively. Being a modular design, the
pricing is application specific.

General Notes on SESS

The supercapacitors, being chemical devices, are sensitive to temperature. Low temperature is not a problemthe supercapacitors are operational to 40 C.
The calendar life of supercapacitors is ten years at
25 C, but it drops to 7.5 years at 40 C and further
drops to just 1,500 h at 65 C [19]. Active cooling systems of either air or liquid are necessary because of
the losses in the supercapacitors and dc/dc converter.
In hot climates, an air conditioner is required to keep
the supercapacitors temperature below 40 C.
A voltage equalization circuit is necessary to provide
equal voltage sharing between series connected modules to prevent overvoltage and subsequent module
destruction due to the capacitance difference
between the modules.
Module voltage and temperature monitoring is needed
to assure SESS reliable service.

Electrical endurance is more critical for high duty

cycle application such as traction comparing to low
duty cycle application such as uninterruptible power
supply. It requires voltage and temperature margins for
the motor winding insulation. The presence of corona
discharge forms ions in the voids of the insulation and
causes dendrite-type growths in organic insulation,
leading to an eventual fault. The growth speed is proportional to the frequency; therefore, a high-frequency
operation common in FESS motors can lead to a quick
failure. To avoid it, corona incipient voltage (CIV)
should be higher than peak operating voltage of the
motor. Moreover, at high dv/dt, the voltage distribution
between the motor winding turns can be very uneven,
so the testing should be performed with pulse voltage
to assure an adequate margin between CIV and actual
peak operating voltage [15]. This margin is an important design factor.
Kinetic Traction System or KTSi (Pentadyne prior to
2010) is one of the FESS suppliers for traction wayside
storage. Their unit is rated at 200 kW with about 5.4 MJ
energy, the size is 36 in D # 58 in W # 77 in H. KTSi specifies 10 million cycles with an expected service life of 20
years and a RTE of 83%.
The FESS built from KTSi units would have 80 MJ at 3 MW.
The estimated cost of FESS is about US$1 million/MW, so
a 3-MW ESS would cost US$3 million. The size is 3 MW,
80 MJ FESS is 1.5 m 14 m 2 m, the footprint is 21 m2
(233 ft2), and the weight is 22.5 tons.
The other FESS supplier is VYCON, preliminary data
for their traction unit is 500 kW, 7.5 MJ, the size is 40 in W #
30 in D # 112 in H, RTE is 80% at full power. To get
3-MW power, we need six modules with a size of 1 m #
4.5 m # 2.9 m, and a weight of 19 tons. However, a 3-MW
system would store only 45 MJ. The price is US$0.8 million/
MW, so 3-MW FESS would cost US$2.4 million.

A flywheel ESS (FESS) consists of a rotor (made either of
composite material or steel) rotating with a high speed
motor and dc /ac converter (actually dc to variable
frequency converter). To eliminate the energy losses
due to air friction, the rotor is contained in the vacuum
vessel, to reduce friction losses FESS uses magnetic and/
or hydrodynamic bearings. To prevent damage due to
rotor destruction, we need to provide a containment
vessel to keep debris inside. FESS is a complex system
consisting of a dc to variablefrequency converter
(VFC), motor controller, vacuum system, containment
vessel, etc.
To get 20 years of service in traction application with a
large number of cycles, the manufacturer needs to assure
both mechanical and electrical endurance. For mechanical parts, the stress level during cycling must not cause
a fatigue in all mechanical parts, especially in a flywheel.
The cycle number should be verified by testing.

General Notes on FESS

The FESS contains a high-speed flywheel and an inverteroperated high-frequency electric motor running in vacuum. Loss of vacuum can potentially destroy the unit,
therefore, monitoring is important. The motor stator
winding is subject to corona discharge damage, and if
the CIV is below the actual operating voltage, the calendar life will be affected.
The mechanical stress during cycling must not cause fatigue, and the cycling number should be verified with testing.

Results for ESS

Table 1 combines our estimates for different ESS technologies. These are equipment only estimatesadding
engineering and integration will increase the price by
All three ESS technologies show similar cost (except the Gigacell), and are also comparable in other

76 ||| IEEE vehicular technology magazine | DECEMBER 2013

Table 1 Comparison of energy storage systems.

Battery BESS (GigaCell) Estimated

Supercapacitor SESS
(Maxwell) Estimated

Flywheel FESS (KTSi)

Power (MW)

Energy (MJ)




RTE (at full power)




Size (m # m # m)

7 # 1.3 # 1.8

15 # 1.6 # 2

14 # 1.5 # 2

Footprint (m )




Weight (t)




Service life (years)




Cost (US$ million)

3.6 (1) /1.4


Cost, 20 years (US$ million)

7.2 (1) /2.7


(1) The cost of a BESS is much higher than those of FESS and SESS, but if we use a hybrid electric battery with a cost of US$1,500/kWh instead of the GigaCell and
allow an additional 50% for a cooling system, the BESS cost drops to US$2.7 million and falls in the range of the other technologies.

parameters as well. All three technologies have potential

for improvement, and it is not easy to pick a clear winner.
At present, the energy cost and the price level of
US$0.8 millionUS$1 million per MW the ESS cannot
be justified on energy savings. A simulation for a small
heavy rail system [2, p. 7] showed an annual energy savings of US$55,000 for a 3-MW ESS. Even assuming the
3-MW ESS costs US$2.5 million, we get a payback period
of 45 years, while the equipment life is 20 years. These
estimates are only for equipment cost, and they do not
include engineering and integration. The actual payback
is even longer, which is repeatedly acknowledged in the
Schroeder et al. state that using energy storage devices principally for energy saving may not provide the
expected return on investment given current costs of
electrical energy and energy storage devices [12, p. 15].
Okui et al. also note that If an initial cost of the energy storage system and the electricity cost that can be
saved by the energy storage system are compared, it is
understood that an economical advantage of the energy
storage system is limited [14, p. 3122].
The applications of the ESS in heavy rail systems can
improve train voltage regulation and also reduce peak
power, even though they are not practical for saving
energy. For instance, in a long span between traction
substations where original trains performed adequately,
an upgrade to heavier trains reduced the train voltage
and train performance. If ESS cannot be justified on energy savings, is there a chance for recuperating power

the storage, and no limitations on the cycling. We just

need to provide reverse power capability. One way
would be to use a diode rectifier in combination with a
dc/ac converter. As a dc/ac converter, we can use either
thyristor line commutated inverter (TCI) or pulse width
modulation (PWM) converter. The second way would be
to use RTCR.
We compare cost, size, and efficiency for three options:
1) diode rectifier and TCI
2) diode rectifier and PWM converter
3) RTCR.
A combination of a diode rectifier and a dc /ac converter [options 1 and 2] allows us to keep an existing
rectifier transformer and diode rectifier. This appears
to be the most logical waywe keep the existing diode
rectifier and just add minimal equipment for recuperation capabilities. However, this path brings no improvement in train voltage regulation characteristics.
In many existing systems, there is a need to improve
the voltage regulation due to increased traffic and running longer and heavier trains. As mentioned earlier,
one of the main reasons for using ESS is to improve
train voltage regulation.
If we are upgrading an existing system, RTCR is more
complex and expensive solution because we need to
change the rectifier transformer and replace diode rectifier with RTCR. However, RTCR can improve forward
voltage regulation characteristics and thus fix the train
voltage problems [1].

Recuperating Traction Power Substations

TCI is actually a thyristor controlled rectifier (TCR) connected backwards to transfer the energy from the dc bus to
the ac line. The current ratings are about half of the forward rectifier, and this reduces the cost by about 2025%.

Diode Rectifier with Thyristor Line

Commutated Inverter

The reversible power converters allow for the braking

power to flow back to the ac grid. They have no limitations on the energy (MJ), because the power grid does

DECEMBER 2013 | IEEE vehicular technology magazine

||| 77

Bilbao metro expects a seven-year payback

for the recuperating substations project.
To use TCI with existing diode rectifier transformers, we
need to add an autotransformer to increase the ac voltage to 1015% and dc reactors to limit the circulating current between TCI and diode rectifiers. To reduce the ac
harmonics, we should use a 12-pulse system.
Let us assume the TCR cost US$240,000 for 3 MW and
a diode rectifier transformer cost US$175,000 for 3 MW.
Reducing the thyristor rectifier cost by 25%, we get
US$180,000. If we estimate the cost of the autotransformers at US$35,000 and add additional US$5,000 for the dc
reactors, we arrive at US$220,000 for TCI. These numbers are for the forced air-cooling, and we might need
to add air filters or air-conditioners cost to the estimate,
depending on the existing substation environment. It is
possible to have conventional cooling, but the system
will be larger and more expensive.
There are offerings of this type of converters by ABB
[10] and Siemens [20]. ABB TCI data are not available on
its Web site. Siemens TCI data are available; its TCI system
has peak power of 3 MW, rated power of 2.25 MW for 30 s,
rated voltage 750 Vdc, efficiency 0.96, the size is 2.4 m #
1 m # 2.3 m, with a footprint of 9.1 m2 or 101 ft2 and the
weight is 2.65 tons.

Diode Rectifier with PWM Converters

To use a PWM converter for braking energy recuperation in combination with diode rectifier, we need either
to add a line frequency (auto)transformer to the PWM
inverter to get its ac line peak voltage to be below the dc
bus, or add a step up dc/dc converter between the dc
bus and PWM converter. The latter circuit was implemented in the Bilbao Metro [3].
The advantage of PWM system is a unity power factor.
The disadvantages are a higher cost, losses, and size of
the converter. We need to add filters to the PWM converter ac output voltage to reduce harmonics and avoid
circulating currents. We can estimate the losses in the
semiconductors of the PWM inverter and the dc/dc converter to be about 6 times higher than in TCIs thyristors
at the same current. Overall efficiency depends on the
magnetic components design, our estimate of total efficiency is about 9294%.
The Bilbao system supplied by Ingeteam Traction
has 1.5-MW peak power and requires a 7.5-m2 footprint
area (compared with 2.4 m2 for Simens TCI at a higher
peak power of 3 MW). The prototype had been running in Bilbao since 2009. Annual recuperation energy
for the prototype is 1,200 MWh/year [3, Table 5]. At
US$100/MWh, this gives annual savings of US$120,000.
Bilbao Metro plans to install four additional units, and

then their average annual recovered energy per unit

will drop to 900 MWh.
Bilbao metro expects a seven-year payback for the
recuperating substations project [3, p. 4]. The expected
energy savings is 4,600 MWh/year for five substations. Assuming the recovered energy cost is US$100/MWh, we get
a payback per substation of 4,600*100*7/5 = US$644,000.
Further, assuming equipment cost to be 50% of the total,
we arrive at a rough estimate of US$320,000 for the converter cost.

Reversible Thyristor Controlled Rectifier

The RTCR is actually two TCRs connected antiparallel.
By firing either one of the bridges (forward or reverse),
we can transmit the energy either from ac to dc or in the
opposite direction. Since we can fire only one bridge at a
time, we can eliminate circulated currents without adding the inductors. Compared to the regular TCR, the
modifications are adding reverse bridge. There is a minimal addition to the control system to add reverse bridge
functionality. Assuming we can use the same transformer for both forward and reverse thyristor bridges, we
can estimate the transformer power increased by about
2030% to handle reverse power flow when compared to
a diode rectifier transformer for the similar power. This
includes a 10% voltage increase and 15% of current
increase. We can use many common components (bus
structure, cooling fans, etc.) between forward and
reverse bridges.
Although the number of power semiconductors is doubled, the cost increase of the converter would be in the
range of 3050%. Overall, we can estimate the additional
cost, incorporating energy recuperation of about 30%.
If we assume a price for a 3-MW diode rectifier transformer to be US$175,000, the transformer price for a
3-MW RTCR is US$225,000. Assuming that a 3-MW TCR is
US$240,000 and going with the higher estimate of 50%, we
get an RTCR price of US$360,000. Therefore, a complete
3-MW RTCR with 400% forward current, including rectifier transformer, costs about US$600,000. The RTCR itself
uses forced air cooling and has about the same footprint
as a 3-MW diode rectifier with convection cooling. The estimated size of the RTCR is 3.5 m # 1.8 m # 2.5 m. with a
footprint of 9.1 m2 or 101 ft2.
The harmonics and power factor in the recuperating
mode are the same as in the rectification mode. If we use
12 pulse bridges for both power flow directions, we keep
the harmonics below IEEE 519 limits for forward operation even at 400%. The reverse current is 100%, and so
the harmonics in reverse operation are lower than in the
forward direction.
The TCRs had been successfully operated at numerous locations (in the United States, Dallas, Texas and
Phoenix, Arizona), causing no problems with either harmonics or power factor. Running the power in reverse

78 ||| IEEE vehicular technology magazine | DECEMBER 2013

Table 2 Comparison of recuperating technologies.

Regen. power (MW pk)

TCI Add On (Sitras)

PWM Add On (Ingeteam)

RTCR Estimated


Rectif. power (MW pk)


Efficiency (%)


9294, estimated

97, estimated

Size (m # m # m)

2.4 # 1 # 2.3


3.5 # 0.8 # 2.5

Footprint (m )




Weight (t)




Service life (years)




Cost (US$ million), estimated




Power factor, estimated



Train voltage boost




the PWM inverter down until the power is restored.

The RTCR and TCI, on the other hand, are both line
commutated inverters, and they cannot supply the
power to ac grid without line voltage present. If the
grid ac voltage collapses while the reverse current
is not running, the reverse bridge (and forward
bridge also) will be disabled and no reverse power
will flow. If the ac voltage collapses while the
reverse bridge is conducting, the reverse current
will increase, the control system senses fault and
opens rectifier cathode breaker.
System operation in case of any faults: effect on harmonics, power factor, etc. All types of active converters
such as RTCR and dc/ac inverters should have control
system that monitors the converters condition and
should shut it down in case of any threats.
Some power authorities hold an opinion that reverse
power flow should be charged as forward power
because it increases losses in the distribution cables
and transformers. The reverse power increases losses in the feeder supplying a particular traction substation, but losses in a utility substation transformer
and distribution network supplying utility substation
depend on the net power from the traction substation if the traction load at the utility substation is
below 30% of total.
For all practical reasons (generation limitation, carbon footprint, substation transformer loading, energy
savings, etc.), the charges should be based on net energy, hence the law on net metering. The utility company might be compensated for additional stressing
of a traction substation feeder, but this compensation
should not preclude acceptance of reverse power and
net metering. In Spain, the government requires the utility companies to accept the power [21, p. 27], and many
U.S. states have already implemented net metering or
are considering it.

direction should not cause any problems because the

current is much lower.
The calculation and measurements performed during
DART start up show the voltage total harmonic distortion
(THD) for typical TCR environment (DART) is below 3%
at loads of 0300%; at load of 100%, it is below 1.6%, even
for a weaker ac supply grid. IEEE 519 requires THD not to
exceed 5%.
The power factor requirements are actually reactive
power requirements because both voltage regulation
and ac current (at a given dc current) depend on the reactive power. Since the reverse current is 100% versus
400% of forward current, the amount of reactive power
in the reverse current operation is also 1/4 of the reactive power for forward operation.

Recuperating Traction Power Substations Concerns

We need to address the following areas:
TCRs dc harmonics effect on the signaling system: The
RTCRs with the capacitive filter have less high-
frequency dc noise than diode rectifier. The Long Island
Railroad conducted noise measurements for TCR with a
capacitive filter and showed the high-frequency harmonics to be lower than for the diode rectifier.
Synchronization requirements when feeding the power
to ac grid: A common misconception regarding
reverse thyristor bridge is the requirement of special
synchronizing equipment to facilitate reverse power
flow (like the one required for connecting a independent power generator to the grid). No special synchronization equipment is necessary because the
thyristor rectifier control system always synchronizes the operation of the rectifier to the grid, both for
forward and reverse operation.
Potential back feed to the grid during outages: This is
a valid concern for PWM inverter, but its control
system can determine the outage condition and shut

DECEMBER 2013 | IEEE vehicular technology magazine

||| 79

Results for Recuperating Substations

Table 2 combines our estimates for different recuperating technologies. These are equipment only estimates,
adding engineering and integration will increase the
price by 50100%.
We see the equipment cost to get energy recuperation is much lower than the ESS cost in Table 1. We can
justify it even on the energy savings basis, like Bilbao
Metro did. However, the RTCR advantage is adding train
voltage improvement on top of the energy savings, all at
a 1/4 of the ESS cost.

The ESS cost is about US$1 million per MW for all technologies, four to ten times higher than the cost of the reversible
converter. The energy savings achieved by adding ESSs to
diode rectifier substations provide a payback time of well
over 30 years, thus making it economically unfeasible. If
improving train performance in a particular local spot is
required, the ESS application can be justified.
Using recuperating traction power stations provides
substantial cost benefits in comparison with wayside
ESS and can be justified just on energy savings.
Using diode rectifiers in combination with dc/ac converters (either PWM or line commutated) achieves energy
savings but does not improve train voltage performance.
Upgrading diode rectifiers to the RTCR allows us to
both improve the performance in the forward operation
by increasing the voltage and reducing the voltage regulation, as well as save money by recuperating braking energy. For new systems using RTCR, we can also achieve
additional savings by reducing the number of substations through increased spacing.

The author would like to thank the following individuals
for the helpful discussions and information (in alphabetical order): John Calvello (Kawasaki), Paul Forquer
(Powell Electric), Salwa Foulda (Bombardier), Vitaly
Lusherovich (BART), Dick Newark (KTSi), Chuck Ross
(PGH Wong Engineering), Bob Schmitt (NYCTA), Rick
Tetrault (VYCON), Nathan Waissman (Maxwell), and
Rick Wolf (Myers Controlled Power).

Author Information
Vitaly Gelman received his M.S.E.E. degree from Moscow
Power Engineering University in 1976. He designed variable
frequency drives from 1976 to 1982, first in Moscow and
from 1979 at Ramsey Controls in New Jersey. He worked
for ABB in New Jersey from 1982 to 1983 designing and
troubleshooting high power rectifiers. Since 1984, he has
worked for VG Controls, developing various controllers
and protection relays for traction and other heavy

industrial applications. He is also a consultant for traction

authorities and traction equipment manufacturers.


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80 ||| IEEE vehicular technology magazine | DECEMBER 2013