Engineering Headlines

This ICE is the freight train of the future

Autonomous wagons

Could not freight trains be as aerodynamic as an ICE? And so fast and quiet?

The coronation: Individual wagons drive independently by means of electric drive and autopilot to the customer. This is exactly how the freight train of the future looks like an idea from the German Aerospace Center.

The idea is convincing: goods wagons are not only closed in the future, they can also be equipped automatically.

Once they are fully loaded, they automatically arrange freight trains, which then travel together to a destination station, from where they make their way to the receiver with their own drive and autonomous control.

Autonomous freight wagons on the rail, according to estimates by traffic researchers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Stuttgart, the future of freight transport by rail.

Next Generation Train Cargo, or NGT Cargo, is the concept that wants to save freight on the rail.

At present, the railways are concentrating on equal goods, which can be transported by rail in large quantities.

This involves bulk goods such as coal, raw materials, chemical products or goods that must be transported in large quantities such as cars.

Transport of smaller quantities of goods is increasing

However, the great growth currently leads to the transport of smaller commodity groups, such as on pallets.

And they are currently transported by truck. The transport over the train is too complicated, too expensive and takes much too long. Here the new concept of DLR could.

For Germany, an increase of almost 40% is expected by the year 2030.

“This is why it is all the more important that we develop innovative logistics, production and vehicle concepts, such as the NGT Cargo, in order to open up the social, ecological and economic benefits of rail freight transport,” explains DLR researcher Dr. Joachim Winter Generation Train (NGT).

Automated transshipment stations for goods

The researchers propose hubs in which the freight trains of the future are automatically loaded. Goods with the same goal are, of course, bundled; each product is marked and constantly visible through the Internet of Things.

The automatically moving freight trains are to be assembled and automatically coupled as required from individual cars and powerful traction units. “This allows us to transport a wide range of goods flexibly, resource-conserving, with little staffing and short transport times,” says winter.

Goods trains reach goods at only 18 km / h

And why is this supposed to happen so quickly? At present freight trains are compiled very comprehensively by shunting locomotives.

The locomotive has to pick up each individual or several wagons and assemble them into a large train in the marshalling yard.

This often takes several days. The decoupling of the freight trains and the transport of individual wagons to the customer also takes a long time.

“A large number of manual clutches lead to long standstill times of the individual cars and an average system speed of only 18 km / h in single vehicle traffic.

Around five days lead time are necessary to provide personnel, materials and routes, “says Winter. “The assembly and separation of wagons, their collection and delivery are very resource and time intensive and cause about 30 to 40% of the total costs.

” Freight trains with the same goal set themselves together The traffic researchers are now proposing wagons that have their own electric drive and battery, and can thus be independent.

The train is thus practically self-assembled!

The wagons and shunting operations are no longer dependent on shunting locomotives.

The concept also has enormous advantages when it comes to delivering goods. Once the train arrives at the central destination station, the individual cars can automatically and autonomously drive the last kilometers to the respective customer.

“Each individual car is equipped with appropriate sensors for this purpose.

It can, for example, be localized at any time and customers can receive exact information on the current status and the expected time of arrival of their cargo, “says Winter.

The wagons can also be driven directly into ports, transshipment terminals or logistics terminals to the high shelves, where they are then also loaded or unloaded automatically.

Goods trains should reach high speeds If the individual wagons are combined into a freight train, they do not just look like a modern ICE.

You should also drive so fast. On the current freight routes, the new NGTs will reach speeds of between 160 and 200 km / h. High speeds of up to 400 km / h should also be possible for high-speed freight transport.

DLR has been researching future train concepts for around ten years.

These are not only to be fast and comfortable, but above all to save energy and to be significantly quieter. DLR 2014 presented a concept for a passenger train of the future.

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