Train technology gets an eco-upgrade with Revolution VLR
The innovative Revolution VLR (Very Light Rail) passenger vehicle can help extend rail networks and reopen historical lines. With a lightweight bodyshell made using recycled carbon fiber, this eco-friendly travel option contributes zero emissions up to 20 mph. This sustainable train technology tackles multiple problems at once for rail networks. Here’s how it works.
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TRB Lightweight Structures worked with Transport Design International (TDI) to create a modular composite bodyshell for the interior and exterior walls. The lighter vehicle design means lower energy consumption, while still meeting rail industry safety standards and government decarbonization goals.
Molded carbon fiber and a recycled foam core comprise the modular panels. A polyfurfuryl alcohol (PFA) bioresin derived from sugar cane was used as a sustainable alternative to phenolic resins. Eco-friendly technologies and materials combined to create the Revolution VLR Demonstrator car, which is 40% lighter than traditional heavy rail vehicles of similar capacity. VLR trains can run on both existing lines and lighter-weight track infrastructure.
Lyndon Newman, Lead Engineer at TRB Lightweight Structures, said, “Our lightweight structural modular panels not only contributed substantially to a 16-tonne reduction in total weight, but were also obtained from a sustainable source. This will significantly contribute to government commitments to decarbonisation in transport.”
Paul Salkeld, Design Director at TDI, added, “The team at TRB worked hard to create a lightweight, modular and standardised shape for the Revolution VLR’s body panels. This not only allows construction of a lighter vehicle, but also assists in the replacement of parts for general maintenance requirements, which is a key consideration for vehicle longevity, given a 30 to 40 year lifespan.”
Revolution VLR features air conditioning and chargers for personal electronics onboard and can be configured in multiple ways for different uses on railway lines. Hybrid power packs reduce energy consumption by allowing the trains to run fully electric at low speeds. Lighter trains also mean less track wear and reduced maintenance costs. Each train car fits up to 56 passengers and can run up to 65 mph. The hybrid propulsion system combines a fully electric fast-charging battery mode with a diesel-battery system. The design’s regenerative braking also means that every time the train slows down, it recaptures energy to use for propulsion.