Technology transfer on rail

Already on trial in this train: the new air conditioning system

Already on trial in this train: the new air conditioning system

An air conditioning system that uses the surrounding air as its medium – an absolute quantum leap forward in the rail vehicle manufacturing industry. Unlike conventional systems, this one needs no refrigerant and imposes no burden on the environment. The aerospace industry has already decided in favour of such systems. Following an enquiry from Deutsche Bahn (German Rail) at the end of 2013, work began on adapting this technology for rail use. The team at Liebherr-Transportation Systems GmbH & Co KG in Korneuburg, Austria, based its plans for a rail-vehicle air-cycle air conditioning system on work previously carried out by colleagues in Lindenberg, Germany.

Deutsche Bahn’s target is an environmentally acceptable, reliable and more efficient air conditioning system for the first build of its ICE 3 high-speed passenger train fleet. Avoiding adverse effects on the environment was at the top of the list of priorities, since the promotion of ‘green’ technologies is one of Deutsche Bahn’s future projects.

For the Liebherr team too, protecting the environment was a powerful motive. “Even when we were still at the bidding stage, our enthusiasm for pro-environmental technologies got us off to a flying start”, says Alexander Foederler, Project Manager in Korneuburg. The installation that Liebherr has developed for these Deutsche Bahn vehicles has only a few components and is therefore lightweight, compact and easy to service. Alexander Foederler: “Low operating costs and minimum overall energy consumption are important factors, but maximum reliability is an absolute essential.” Air-cycle systems have been used on aircraft for some time, but they are new to the rail transportation area, and currently the only alternative to those containing a chemical refrigerant.

Transferring the air-cycle system to a rail-vehicle setting was the first joint project for the six members of the core team seconded from the Design, Purchasing, Industrialisation and Quality Assurance departments. However, they all agree that the project took off without problems and went ahead harmoniously. “It was certainly a good idea for us to occupy a single project office, and to move directly into the manufacturing area when the prototype was being built”, convincing words from Michael Canori, Managing Engineer in Korneuburg. Some of the team had only joined the company a few months previously when a bid for the first build of the ICE 3 had to be submitted at the end of 2013. But Alexander Foederler is convinced: “Companies with a long tradition like Liebherr need employees of long standing who have acquired the necessary know-how over a lengthy period. But there are also times when a fresh wind has to blow, because projects like this one call for a dynamic approach and new ideas.”

The team developing the air-cycle air conditioning system for rail vehicles in Korneuburg cooperated closely with the customer and with its Liebherr Group colleagues in Lindenberg. In March 2015 the first pro-environmental cold-air system was delivered for installation on an ICE 3 high-speed passenger train. In the summer of that year trials lasting several months started, with the train operating according to a regular daily schedule. In order to collect extensive operating data, the team from Liebherr Transportation Systems installed various sensors and measuring devices on the air-cycle installations. Performance was scrutinised especially closely in the hot summer months of July and August.

The collected data was analysed very thoroughly in cooperation with German Rail before the official trial phase came to an end in September 2015. Alexander Foederler comments on the results: “As well as environmental acceptability, the railway company attached great importance to a high level of reliability. Both these requirements were confirmed by the trials, and we can now offer the customer a ‘green’ alternative system that needs no refrigerant.” Looking ahead, the Korneuburg-based team is already working on plans to adapt air-cycle air conditioning technology for other mobile and industrial applications.

  • Environmentally acceptable technology and the team behind it: Michael Canori, Kristina Schmidt, Martina Kreuz and Alexander Foederler with the finished product

    Environmentally acceptable technology and the team behind it: Michael Canori, Kristina Schmidt, Martina Kreuz and Alexander Foederler with the finished product

  • Martina Kreuz and Michael Canori examine air conditioning components again before the initial sample test

    Martina Kreuz and Michael Canori examine air conditioning components again before the initial sample test

  • Joint planning of the delivery chain

    Joint planning of the delivery chain