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An Electric Train That Never Needs Charging? It’s Real!

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As our own Jennifer Sensiba recently pointed out, “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” is an established economic principle— but it’s also a pretty well established principle in physics, too. Basically, you can’t get something for nothing, and there’s no such thing as free lunch energy. Or … is there? NBC News recently reported on an electric train never needs to be plugged in to keep running.

How does it work? The TL;DR version is: regenerative braking, gravity, and some clever planning.

If you’re unfamiliar with regenerative braking, it’s pretty neat tech. 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. But imagine that same idea put to use in a train. But not just any train— a train that’s hauling millions of pounds of heavy rocks!

That’s a lot of energy, and that’s what’s being captured by Fortescue Williams, a “hard rock” mining company and advanced EV engineering firm that operates 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.

It works like this: the train powers itself up a mountain to the top of a mine, where it gets loaded up with rocks, ore, coal, etc., then it just “rolls” down the mountain powered by gravity, with the engineer riding the regenerative brakes the whole way down.

That’s right— gravity! By harnessing that same elemental force that got Trevor Milton booted from the big chair at Nikola, Fortescue was able to develop their “Infinity Train” that runs on 100% electrical power, yet never needs charging … and, if that sounds familiar, that’s because it is.

The EDumper, a positively massive all-electric mining truck developed by eMining AG a few years back, operates on precisely the same principles. It rolls down fully loaded, riding the brakes, then powers itself (empty) back up to the top of the mine on the energy it gained from the regen. system … with loads to spare (get it?). “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.”

If you want a refresher on the eDumper, you can watch the video, below. Then let us know what you think of the whole “gravity charging” concept in the comments section at the bottom of the page.


eMining AG eDumper

Source | Images: Fortescue, via Jalopnik.

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I've been involved in motorsports and tuning since 1997, and have been a part of the Important Media Network since 2008. You can find me here, working on my Volvo fansite, riding a motorcycle around Chicago, or chasing my kids around Oak Park.


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