There’s no such thing as free energy— or is there? One electric train never needs to be plugged in to keep running. Find out how.
Regenerative braking is pretty neat tech, when you think about it. A heavy object— like a car or truck— moving at high speeds carries a lot of energy, and using some of that energy to charge up a battery while it’s slowing down is a great way to improve efficiency. If you’ve ever driven a hybrid or EV you already know all that … now imagine the same idea in a train. But not just any train— a train that’s hauling twenty tons or more.
That’s a lot of energy, and that’s what’s being captured by Fortescue, a “hard rock” mining company operating 54 locomotives in Western Australia, to power up one of its electric locomotives. One of their locomotives is harnessing enough energy using regenerative braking that they’re able to run it continuously, without ever charging it.
How? By using gravity!
That’s right— gravity! By harnessing that elemental force in clever ways, Fortescue was able to develop their “Infinity Train” that runs on 100% electrical power, yet never needs charging.
The train powers up a mountain to the top of a mine, where it gets loaded up with rocks, ore, coal, etc., then it just “rolls” down, riding the regen. brakes the whole way down.
Of course, you can never get something for nothing, so what’s the catch? Simple: the train is empty when it goes back up the mountain, so it takes a lot less energy to move its mass up than the energy it carries down when fully loaded.
“When you have a descent of 10 percent, from top to bottom, you never need to recharge,” explains Roger Miauton, the chief executive of the Swiss electric vehicle firm eMining AG. “You generate enough energy going downhill as you need to get back up again.”
Gravity’s fun, isn’t it?
We thought this was a great use for electrical power, and one that could surely be put to good use in other applications with a bit of clever thought. What do you think? Where would you try something like this? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know!