5 High Speed Trains that are Changing the Face of Rail

Efset high speed train image

Image Credit: Good Clean Tech
Record Smashing Speed and Efficiency Will Challenge Airlines
Trains and TreeHugger are a natural fit. But as Eric pointed out in his recent exploration of high-speed, low emission trains over at Planet Green, recent innovations are slashing travel times and cutting emissions at the same time, making our favorite mode of transportation even more attractive. From the bullet trains of Japan, to the latest high-speed, low emission networks of Europe, trains have got the airlines in many countries worried. Read on for some of the latest innovations, including a few more utilitarian freight trains too. And for rail fans in the US who bemoan this country's lack lustre networks, there's hope here too.

Japanese efSET High Speed Train Hits 217 mph

Japan is already known for its super-fast trains, but Kawasaki Heavy Industries are developing the next generation of bullet trains, dubbed the Environmentally Friendly Super Express Train, or efSET for short (pictured above). The efSET looks set to reach a speed of 217 mph (350 kph) on passenger routes while running quiter, more efficiently, and more smoothly than existing high-speed trains. After Gutenberg informs us that the train will use regenerative breaking to boost efficiency, as well as lower rolling resistance, but I can find no word on actual fuel consumption figures just yet. And for information on what bird the efSET design was inspired by, check out Jaymi's awesome biomimicry slideshow.

French AGV High Speed Train Boasts 20% Efficiency Improvement and 224 mph

The ridiculously fast new French AGV trains, which look set to enter service across Europe in the coming years, can travel 1,000km (600 miles) in just 3 hours, have a top speed of 360km/h (224mph), and thanks to a nifty configuration of engines in each carriage, as opposed to only the locomotives, claim a 20% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to previous generations of high-speed trains. As shown by the new Ave s103 rail service between Barcelona and Madrid, services such as these can seriously start to challenge the dominance of airlines, not just on short-haul journeys, but medium distance too. Particularly considering that rail services take you from city center to city center, and with vastly simpler check-in and security procedures than your typical airport, flying starts looking very unattractive indeed.

Image credit: Rimessa Ferroviaria Pistoia

PVTRAIN Gets Solar Power Boost

Of course it's not all about breaking speed records and fancy new engines. Back in 2005, the Italian PVTRAIN project explored using solar power to boost train efficiency. While the panels, which were mounted on the roofs of carriages, cargo wagons and locomotives did not directly help to power the train's movement, they did provide energy for air conditioning, lighting etc, lessening the overall load on the engine and thus improving efficiency somewhat. As one commenter pointed out, the overall power generation is probably somewhere in the region of 1% of the trains overall energy load, but every little helps.

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