New Silicon-Carbide Technologies for the Rolling Stock of the Future

Monday, 25 September 2017 07:02
New Silicon-Carbide Technologies for the Rolling Stock of the Future

CAF Power & Automation participates together with IK4-IKERLAN in the Roll2Rail project developing railway traction converters based on silicon-carbide semiconductors

CAF Power & Automation and the technology centre IK4-IKERLAN, have developed a railway traction system based on silicon-carbide (SiC) semiconductors which results in: increased energy efficiency by 50%, while weight and size are reduced by 20% and 30% respectively when compared with converters currently used. This system was developed on the grounds of the European funding of the Roll2Rail project, an initiative launched by Shif2Rail to encourage research and innovation in the continental railway sector.




Enhanced Transport Efficiency thanks to Silicon-Carbide

SiC semiconductors are the cutting-edge technology to be integrated in traction equipment. The properties of the new devices result in a significant improvement of current traction systems, with higher functionality and performance over conventional systems, as well as reduced volume and weight.

These two are key factors to increase efficiency in railway transport. CAF Power&Automation, with the collaboration of the technology centre IK4-IKERLAN, has researched and monitored this technology evolution and applicability to traction systems since inception. This cooperation among companies from Gipuzkoa has materialised in the design and development of a full-scale traction converter prototype.

The new model demonstrates this technology potential, offering results which greatly improve the functionality and performance of SiC-based traction equipment, reducing volume by 30% and weight by 20%, while increasing converter energy efficiency by 50%. These percentages support the need and interest in further research of this new technology. In recent years and mainly as a result of programmes such as Roll2Rail, CAF P&A were able to support and promote new research and development of systems, which led to a major step forward in the promotion of SiC-based traction converters. .


The railway system is one of the main challenges for the European Union to improve mobility within European borders. As part of the Shift2Rail initiative, CAF P&A and IK4-IKERLAN have participated since 2015 in the Roll2Rail project, along with the leading companies in the sector. This project, under the Horizon 2020 project framework, is funded by the European Commission to encourage the competitiveness of the railway industry.