Subways and trains must be more sustainable in the future. Researchers from Graz are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to develop new air conditioning systems for coaches. Smart maintenance and using the best refrigerants is important.
In a few years, anyone who takes the train in Austria or the subway in Vienna will be able to reach their destination comfortably and in an environmentally friendly way, not least thanks to artificial intelligence. The research institutions and companies that have joined forces to form Virtual Vehicle Research GmbH, based in Graz, want to set a course for this.
However, they are not concerned with the full automatic control already provided at Siemens, but rather with the intelligent maintenance of the air conditioning systems in the groups. Background: Rail travel is the focal point of climate-neutral mobility.
Don’t sweat or shiver
However, those who find themselves sweating or shivering in sweltering carriages will quickly switch to other, perhaps less environmentally friendly, modes of transportation. As is also evident from other research (see article above), climate-friendly travel should always be the most people-friendly option. However, temperature control in rolling stock is said to be an area where “green” solutions still have a lot of potential. One criticism: Filters, compressors, fans, and other wear parts are usually replaced at set intervals, regardless of their actual condition and functionality.
“It’s expensive and not particularly resource-saving,” says Peter Wardrop of Virtual Vehicle’s Innovative Energy Management and Comfort Systems division. He and his team want to contribute to more efficient and sustainable air conditioning for train sets in order to reduce the environmental footprint of rail travel.
In a current research project, supported by the Research Promotion Agency FFG and in which Siemens Mobility Austria, the manufacturer of Liebherr air conditioners from Korneuburg and the Institute of Thermal Engineering of the Graz University of Technology are involved, the aim is to develop a system that supports the running operations of the observed conditioners.
Low maintenance costs in the subway
With the data obtained in this way, anomalies are detected at an early stage and predictions are made as to when maintenance measures need to be taken, for example when a filter needs to be replaced. “This is based on the new approaches of machine learning and artificial intelligence combined with digital twins,” Schrank explains.
“Ultimately, there must be a fully digitalized networked maintenance concept. Wir erwarten, dass die Wartungskosten von Klimaanlagen in Schienenfahrzeugen um mindestens 30 Prozent gesenkt und die positiven Umweltschutzauswirkungen aufgrund der Ressourceneinsparungen deutlich erhöht werden.” Während der Entwicklungsphase werden Daten am Laborprüfstand und im laufenden U-Bahn-Betrieb gewonnen, um damit die künstliche Intelligenz zu training The researchers assume that the Underground will be able to be equipped with the system within the next five years.
Carbon dioxide cools the Railjet engine in an environmentally friendly way
Another FFG project already on the rails: an ÖBB railcar equipped with a Liebherr cooling system and heat pump function was in daily use. Natural carbon dioxide was used as a refrigerant in a closed circuit. “Depending on the place of use, energy consumption has been reduced by about a third compared to a conventional electric air conditioning system,” summarizes the wardrobe.
“In addition, conventional refrigerants have a thousand times higher greenhouse gas potential and are very expensive.” What particularly pleased the scientists: “In tenders for new rolling stock, heat pumps are often required now. At least for long-distance trains, there are signs that this environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, cost-effective technology we helped develop will become the standard.” .
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