New Silicon Carbide converters, on track testing on Euskotren trains

Monday, 04 February 2019 09:08
New Silicon Carbide converters, on track testing on Euskotren trains

CAF Power & Automation, working in partnership with IKERLAN, tests the Silicon Carbide traction converters on EUSKOTREN trains, being pioneers in Spain

The rail industry continues to spearhead cutting-edge technologies to create lighter, more energy-efficient trains: Basque companies and the applied research of the country establish themselves as leaders in their technological evolution.

In this case, CAF Power & Automation, with the support of IKERLAN, and in partnership with EUSKOTREN have decided to consider testing silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors on real trains. This is a pioneering development in Spain, as it will be the first railway traction SiC converter in Spain and also the first to be installed on 1500 Vdc metro platforms operating in Europe.

During the last years, the railway systems manufacturer, CAF Power & Automation, from Gipuzkoa and the IKERLAN technological centre have collaborated in the research and development of silicon carbide semiconductors, achieving an innovative railway traction system that allows a 32 % reduction in volume, a 16 % reduction in weight and a 35 % reduction in losses. The ultimate goal of this development is to increase the availability and reliability of trains, reduce maintenance costs and significantly reduce energy consumption.

With regard to EUSKOTREN, the Basque public transport service company has participated in the project and has installed the necessary modules in its vehicles in order to test the performance of silicon carbide semiconductors. The new converters, which are responsible for transforming electrical energy into the driving force for train engines, have made it possible not only to offer higher switching speed, but also higher thermal conductivity.

"Offering innovative and competitive technological solutions is one of our priorities. Thanks to the European Shif2Rail project, part of Horizon 2020, and with the support of our technological partner IKERLAN, we have succeeded in being the first in Spain to apply this technology in the Euskotren trains. This new traction equipment will allow significant energy savings to be made in addition to a reduction in weight, volume and acoustic noise, making it possible to increase the train's performance both in terms of frequency and passengers", said Iosu Ibarbia, General Manager of CAF Power & Automation.l

Imanol Leza, General Manager of EUSKOTREN further added that “One of the key elements of Euskotren's innovation strategy to position itself among the leading operators in the technological vanguard focuses on the ever-increasing digitalisation of its rolling stock, with the aim of having more efficient trains from the point of view of consumption, availability, performance and big-data applications. In this case, thanks to SiC technology, the converters lighten the weight of our units and increase their energy efficiency".

Cutting-edge Basque technology

CAF Power & Automation and the Arrasate-Mondragón IKERLAN technology centre have been working side by side on new technologies for electric railway traction for more than a decade.


From 2015 to 2018, both companies participated in the European Shift2Rail project, in which more than thirty European companies, technology centres and universities took part, and in which the first steps were taken for the use of SiC technology that is now applied in EUSKOTREN trains. The PINTA project was financed to the tune of 30 million euros and was supported and promoted by the public-private association, Shift2Rail. This association is now part of the Horizon 2020 programme.