Come on Ride The (Japanese Super Hybrid) Train, and Ride It...


Woot! Woot! A rolling party it ain't, but Japan's newest super-train has something better than DJs and disco lights to smiling all the way to Sendai: Hybrid Power. The Kiha E200 packs a diesel engine and electric motors like most passenger trains, but adds banks of lithium ion batteries on it's roof. The result is a 20 percent boost in fuel efficiency, and up to 60 percent fewer emissions and noise.Like hybrid cars with regenerative breaking, the train recharges it's batteries as it slows down, and as it's engines idle to a stop when the train is not moving. Like other non-hybrid trains, when starting the train uses the advantage of electric motors which have a high stall torque (high force with no motion).

On the downside, cost of the system is high. This first version cost 200 million yen (US$1.7 million; €1.2 million), which is twice as much as a conventional train. The current system is installed on a relatively short line for testing purposes. Rail officials want to make sure that the power output of the train is sufficient for winter heating, and want to measure actual fuel efficiency with different passenger loads.

This announcement comes nearly two years after the "Green Goat" rail yard switching locomotive was unveiled in the United States. However, with minimal money available for equipment investment, a Diesel Technology Forum official told the International Herald Tribune that the industry was focused on alternative fuels, rather than alternative engines, at least for the North American market. :: Japanese Train at The Independent :: Another article at The IHT.