ABB's retrofit solution for ICE1 high-speed trains in Germany

2012-01-10 - ABB has developed a new traction converter to refurbish the first fleet of high-speed intercity trains operated by Deutsche Bahn, Germany's national rail operator. This is the first project worldwide involving the exchange of high-speed train converters while leaving all other components of the traction chain and all interfaces unchanged.

Converters are key components in most large refurbishment projects for rail vehicles. When train fleets are renovated, operators often seek higher power, efficiency and reliability and lower maintenance costs. Replacing the traction converters is a tough engineering challenge because often all the mechanical, electrical and control interfaces are pre-defined. Nevertheless, based on the powerful modular platform of ABB BORDLINE® CC traction converters and skillful engineering and project management support, these complex projects can provide a high return on investment. One recent example is ABB’s retrofit solution for ICE1 high-speed trains in Germany.

An extensive modernization program started in the summer of 2005 and the oldest vehicles in Deutsche Bahn’s fleet of intercity trains were given a completely new interior design after 14 years of operation. The program also includes the replacement of the now obsolete and cost-intensive thyristor traction converters with modern Insulated-Gate-Bipolar-Transistor converters.

The invitation to tender went out in 2007, and DB awarded the order for a prototype to ABB in September 2008. The task was to equip an ICE 1 with four newly developed traction converters of 2.4 MW each. ABB developed and produced these in just 13 months. Successful trial operation in regular rail service lasting several months and fulfillment of the network access criteria were the prerequisite for series production. An essential advantage of ABB's offer was the significant energy saving potential of its three-level topology.
This primarily differs from the conventional two-level traction converter in that fewer harmonic components are generated on the motor and network side. This minimizes energy losses and reduces the load on the motors, resulting in a longer life span. According to Harald Hepp, Profit Center Manager for High Power Propulsion, the energy demand can be reduced by at least 12 % in comparison with the old thyristor converters. He explains: "This has a positive effect on the energy balance as well as the environmental compatibility of the train, and makes a significant contribution to reducing operating costs, particularly in times of rising energy costs."

ABB Team during the commissionning of the traction converters.


After successful conclusion of the pilot project, ABB won an order to equip 19 further ICE 1 trains, i.e. 38 power heads, with a total of 76 traction converters until the middle of 2011. Markus Piepenhagen from DB Fernverkehr AG talks about the successful collaboration with ABB : "ABB ultimately submitted the most cost-effective tender for DB, based on the published assessment criteria, in an EU award procedure. In addition to the fulfillment of the technical specifications and commercial terms other important factors for us were the price and, in particular, guaranteed low Life Cycle Costs (LCC), as the energy consumption, maintenance costs and failure rate – reliability and availability – have a significant influence on the cost-effective operation of the vehicles. In any project of this size there are numerous challenges, as well as unforeseen twists and events. ABB has demonstrated a very high level of customer and service orientation in such situations, and has reacted to the issues that have arisen very quickly and satisfactorily."


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    ABB’s compact new auxiliary converters BORDLINE® M provide more onboard power in the limited space available.
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