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Monday February 25, 2008

Siemens banks on niche in energy-efficiency train


ACCORDING to the United Nations, 90% of the world's population will be in cities by 2030. 

By the end of 2008, 50% of people in the world would live in cities, said Siemens AG's Industry Division Mobility chief executive officer Dr Hans-Jorg Grundmann. 

This “megatrend”, together with climate change, meant that demand for clean, green and efficient mobility solutions would grow, Grundmann told reporters from 12 countries who were flown to San Diego, California, for a press briefing recently. 

Siemens Malaysia Sdn Bhd senior vice-president (sector rail transportation systems) Tim Hunter said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur that energy efficiency was a major differentiator for Siemens, especially considering the total cost over the lifecycle of a transportation project such as a railway line. 

Hunter's department recently completed the electrical works for the double-tracking rail project from Rawang to Ipoh.  

Siemen’s Sprinter Desiro VT642 in San Diego on the light rail line between Oceanside and Escondido. The regular train operation started last month, carrying about 11,600 people a day.
“The total cost of running the system over its entire lifecycle could be as much as three times the initial capital investment,” he said. 

Siemens' green technologies that provide energy savings and reduced maintenance costs can provide up to a substantial 30% savings on total cost, Hunter said. 

Energy efficiency would also become more important as fuel prices rise and concerns grew for climate change and preservation of the environment, he said. 

According to Hunter, Siemens Malaysia is bidding for the systems part of the Ipoh-Padang Besar double-tracking project. 

The RM12.5bil project's main contractor is a Gamuda Bhd-MMC Corp Bhd joint venture. 

At present, Siemens was interested “in all projects, in innovative projects,” Hunter said, adding that there was a push within the group for expansion of the mobility division in Asia. 

Siemens was also interested in YTL Corp's proposal for a high-speed train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, he said. He, however, noted that the project was still at the developmental stage. 

Siemens would offer its electrical high-speed train, the Velaro, that can reach a maximum speed of 350km per hour on a 1.4m gauge (the distance between the rails) track, versus existing tracks in the country which have rails that are 1m apart.  

Factors in favour of the project, despite its short distance of only about 325km, is a quicker travel time of 1½ hours versus four hours by plane or car. 

This would introduce new “journey opportunities” that would generate a lot of commercial possibilities and potentially higher property prices in the capital along the route and in Singapore. 

Siemens' Velaro train has most recently been put into service for a high-speed link between Madrid to Barcelona in Spain, a distance of 670 km, in April last year. 

Hunter added that Siemens spent about 1.14 billion euros, or RM5bil, a year on research in the mobility sector alone. 

Among the energy-saving technologies developed by Siemens in the context of city travel is the “Sitras SES”. 

Sitras SES is an energy storage system for mass transit. It is capable of feeding up to 40% of the energy generated in braking mode back into the power supply system. 

The returned energy from regenerative braking can be used to feed vehicles that are accelerating at the same time.  

The difference in the Sitras system and that of its competitors is that the energy could also be used to run escalators, lifts and air-conditioners, as well as for other power requirements. 

However, green technologies that have been developed are not universally deployed, said Hunter.  

“It depends on the pricing and demands of the city authorities and governments and their decisions,” he said. 

The KL International Airport's Express Rail Link (ERL) system that was supplied by Siemens uses an early version of regenerative braking technology. However, the ERL system was completely different from the Sitras SES, said Hunter. 

At present, Siemens is the leading supplier of light rail vehicles in the US and every third light rail system in North America comes from Siemens. 

The mobility division of Siemens announced on Jan 31 an order from Denver, Colorado, valued at about US$184mil. The order was for another 55 Siemens type SD 160 light rail vehicles.  

 

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