When railways were integrated, and largely Government-owned, nobody worried about apportioning the electricity bill. The trains used as much electricity as they needed, and the company paid for the total consumption.
Now, however, with infrastructure companies divorced from train operators by law, and with multiple operators running on the same piece of track, it has suddenly become important, and a bit of a nightmare. Trains have to be fitted with their own electricity meters, read by the infrastructure owner, so the operators can be billed for the electricity they have used.
These meters are sophisticated pieces of kit. They have to work on different voltages, AC and DC, and also record when a train crosses an international border, or from one charging area to another. And then there is the thorny question of regenerated power from vehicle braking to recharge back to the network. These aren’t simple meters.
One of the specialists in this field, Ciesse SpA, with its electronics division Railware based in Verona, Italy, has just unveiled its latest generation of energy metering system (EcoS), specifically designed to meet the latest iteration of EN50463:2015 which is in its final phase prior to release.
The Railware EcoS system has been developed after consultation with key industry stakeholders, including train operating companies and infrastructure managers. It aims to address current and future user demands that focus, not only on the core energy measurement and billing aspect, but also on the infrastructure and train environment by means of detecting and diagnosing issues within the operating environment which may impact users.
The system comprises two measurement channels for voltage and current and supports DC, AC 16.7Hz and AC 50Hz with an accuracy of 0.5R and is suitable for all EMU vehicle types. EcoS offers a fully integrated platform which records energy measurement values alongside vehicle position via real time GPS, which is stored in internal persistent memory. The recorded information is then transferred to on-ground data collection services (DCS) with the integrated 2G/3G/4G/Wi-Fi radio links for statistical, analytical and billing purposes.
EcoS differentiates between active/reactive and consumed/regenerated energy and is able to communicate with all recognised billing bureau or settlement providers.
The unit’s unique diagnostic function is able to detect overhead line or conductor rail interference, which enables users to mitigate penalties associated with loss of consumption or corrupted energy data. This same system picks up defects in the catenary, which are then fed back to maintenance teams for rapid rectification.
Additional areas of diagnosis include pantograph vibration, identification of neutral sections and AC/DC changeover, overhead line voltage and current monitoring, GPS and communication coverage as well as a host of additional user-specific parameters. EcoS’s embedded Wi-Fi access point provides direct access to wireless systems without the requirement for an intermediate platform.
The EcoS system, with its integrated antenna and compact transducers, has been specifically designed with plug-and-play in mind to enable ease of installation. This minimises integration time and cost, offering users a quicker implementation and return on investment than would be possible on conventional systems.
Additionally EcoS offers a wide range of communication interfaces to other train-board systems via its multiple Ethernet interfaces and the RS485 port, both of which are suitable for train control systems and traction unit connections. The integrated Wi-Fi interface is also useful for maintenance and data management purposes.
EcoS has been designed with future proofing in mind and is fully expandable via additional slots for expansion boards such as I/O , MVB, CAN Bus, an additional Ethernet and USB.
EcoS includes a full web management facility that can also be integrated with other train board systems, such as the passenger information system. EcoS has an open interface allowing for access and communication with most train control systems via TRDP and other common protocols.