Every day 40,000 trains: The train is rolling: Forward-looking driving saves electricity


Deutsche Bahn has a relatively good reputation for climate friendliness: "Rail instead of road" is an ancient, but not very successful motto of the environmental protection movement.

"Rail travel is climate protection," says CEO Richard Lutz self-confidently. But also the German course has air up. It wants to save even more than before electricity – and therefore also money. Intelligent driving should help.

Marcel Tschirschwitz looks relaxed but concentrated in the driver's cab of the ICE. After starting in Nuremberg, the 33-year-old engine driver has just mastered the climb to the heights of the Thuringian Forest. At just under 300 km he rushes towards Erfurt. 670 tons unladen weight in the back, more than 500 passengers in the luggage.

"Now we can take the gas back," he says, as the train has crossed the ridge of the low mountain range. Chirpitz lets you roll. Practically only with engine brake reaches the ICE punctually the Erfurt central station.

Deutsche Bahn describes this driving style, which takes into account the topography, as "energy-efficient driving". This has been practiced for many years, with almost 19,000 train drivers undergoing regular training.

Now will be refilled again. With the "green wave", a new software designed to make sure that the trains are as energy efficient as possible. "Punctuality continues, but more energy saving is still a big goal," says Tschirschwitz, who trains train drivers.

Background: The driver can only judge a part of the factors themselves. Rolling the ICE down a kilometer-long slope without adding "gas" – as on the northern slope of the Thuringian Forest – is comparatively banal. The recovery of braking energy is practiced at the track for much longer than in the car.

The software, "train run control", as it is called in the German railwayman, ideally knows things Marcel Tschirschwitz can not even know. Is the platform already free in the next station? If not, you can let it roll and you do not have to accelerate – otherwise the driver runs the risk of having to stop his train at a red signal and then start again with high energy expenditure. But the rail is not his own. Maybe there are late trains on the same section of the track, trying to make up for the time?

Such questions clarified a central computer and plays the answers to Marcel Chirpitz in his ICE cockpit. The train driver then gets a guideline speed on his instruments. If he keeps it, the ICE drives as environmentally friendly as possible.

The long-distance trains of Deutsche Bahn go since early 2018 to 100 percent green electricity in 2038, this applies to all electric trains. The train consumes ten terawatt hours of electrical energy each year with 40,000 trains a day on the longest route network in Europe with 33,400 kilometers. The consumption corresponds approximately to the need of a metropolis like Hamburg.

Intelligent driving software, Deutsche Bahn has calculated, can help to save up to ten percent energy per route. Between Munich and Hamburg alone, that consumes 1300 kilowatt hours per trip – as much as a single household per year. The "green wave", according to test drives, brings additional savings of up to two percent. The absolute amount of electricity saved is financially significant.

Deutsche Bahn is currently rolling out the new system nationwide for all long-distance trains – ICE and InterCity. About 90 percent have already been implemented, it says from the railway. In regional traffic, there are only 25 percent so far. During the first quarter of 2020, all regional trains will also be connected. In freight transport, all vehicles of German domestic traffic are equipped with the technology.


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