ABB traction technology to increase efficiency of Deutsche Bahn’s ICE 1 high-speed trains

  • ABB traction converters selected to upgrade 76 InterCity Express first generation high-speed locomotives
  • ABB technology will improve energy efficiency, reliability and ease of maintenance

ABB has won a large order from German railway company Deutsche Bahn for the upgrade of its first flagship InterCity Express (ICE 1) high-speed train series. The contract is part of a refurbishment program and includes the upgrade of 76 high-speed locomotives to ABB’s highly energy efficient IGBT (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors) traction converters. Replacing existing power electronics from the 1990s with state-of-the-art traction technology will help to significantly extend the operating life of the ICE 1 fleet making it fit for service for at least another decade. Financial details of the contract were not disclosed. The order was booked in the third quarter.

The traction equipment converts the electrical energy from the overhead power line to the right voltage and frequency to drive traction motors. The traction converters selected are based on ABB’s three-level high power electronic platform, resulting in minimized energy losses, reduced mechanical stress on the existing traction motors and less noise.

Upgrading to IGBT technology is an efficient and economical solution that elevates the traction system to that of modern trains with respect to reliability, energy efficiency and ease of maintenance. Energy savings of at least eight percent are expected which is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 5,000 households.

Replacing existing power electronics from the 1990s with state-of-the-art traction technology will help to significantly extend the operating life of the ICE 1 fleet making it fit for service for at least another decade. (Image: Deutsche Bahn AG / Wolfgang Klee)
Replacing existing power electronics from the 1990s with state-of-the-art traction technology will help to significantly extend the operating life of the ICE 1 fleet making it fit for service for at least another decade. (Image: Deutsche Bahn AG / Wolfgang Klee)
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“We are pleased to continue our partnership with ABB as a competent partner with proven expertise in customized propulsion solutions,” said Dr. Philipp Nagl, Executive Director Production DB Fernverkehr at Deutsche Bahn. “ABB traction converters were already successfully deployed in a first batch of 40 modernized ICE 1 high-speed locomotives in 2010. This replacement enabled significant energy savings and reductions of operating costs that were higher than expected. Together with our investments in energy efficient new rolling stock and new maintenance facilities this project is another milestone to strengthen our position as the most climate-friendly transport mode.”

“The fleet of ICE trains is the backbone of Germany’s high-speed train network and we are grateful to Deutsche Bahn for their trust in our technology,” said Edgar Keller, President of ABB’s Traction Division. “The need and demand for even more efficient, environmentally friendly and reliable rail travel is set to increase. With decades of rail experience, combined with the broadest traction portfolio, ABB is well positioned to help rail operators get the best efficiency and value from their existing system.”

DB recently obtained the operating permit from the Eisenbahn-Bundesamt that allows the converter upgrade. The permit was granted after intensive testing of two upgraded pilot locomotives, and this milestone marks the start of the project. The replacement with a form, fit and function compliant ABB traction converter solution enables the high conversion pace of two ICE 1 locomotives being upgraded roughly every two weeks with the entire refurbishment project expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2023.

ABB is a leading provider of innovative traction technologies for transportation, offering a full range of propulsion, auxiliary and battery energy storage solution for new vehicles as well as for retrofits. Operators benefit from customized traction solutions engineered for optimum overall performance, energy efficiency and minimized operating cost.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a leading global technology company that energizes the transformation of society and industry to achieve a more productive, sustainable future. By connecting software to its electrification, robotics, automation and motion portfolio, ABB pushes the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels. With a history of excellence stretching back more than 130 years, ABB’s success is driven by about 105,000 talented employees in over 100 countries. www.abb.com

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