Technologies in vehicles by Škoda Group
Environmentally friendly, safe and energy-saving, with favourable operating costs: these are just a few of the characteristics of Škoda Transportation products.
The company is a technological leader in its field, and modern technologies and their development in Škoda Transportation is focused on improving and predicting many important characteristics of future products – e.g. in traction drive safety, electromagnetic and thermal calculations, and subsequent engine optimisation. The research yields results such as products with low-energy electric drives, which reduces vehicle and infrastructure maintenance costs. Other areas of development include modern technologies focused on safety, design, comfort, smart technologies and the development of digital systems.
There are many examples of major steps in technological progress at Škoda.
The group has a technological department for the development of synchronous motors with permanent magnets, which are an essential part of the traction drives of the ForCity Alfa, Plus and Smart trams. These motors are top-tier products that allow the construction of pivoting bogies with direct drive (no transmission). Each traction motor is individually controlled from its own inverter, which allows individual control for each wheel. Each traction container is designed for one traction bogie and represents the total utilisation of the current high-performance electronics. Quick communication allows optimization of passes through the curve and higher safety when driving through the curve. The traction drive for three-system locomotives places extraordinary demands on power electronics. Traction converters must adapt to the three power systems. The most difficult part of the research was electromagnetic compatibility and the suppression of interference of the railway interlocking system in all countries where this vehicle will be operated.
Over the years, the rough structure of many Škoda vehicles has undergone innovations thanks to composite panels used as bearing parts of the rough structure. These panels consist of an aluminium honeycomb core and an aluminium sheet covering on the top and bottom. All these parts are glued together and riveted to the rest of the rough structure. The advantage of this solution is lower weight, higher rigidity and simplification of assembly. The low weight of the vehicles also contributes to low electricity consumption.
Škoda has developed its own system for online monitoring of operated locomotives and Datarail electric units. The system allows monitoring of all vehicles currently in operation. Technicians have a detailed map showing the precise location of each train, maintaining contact with headquarters and sending information about its exact location, current speed, mileage and technical condition at regular intervals. This continuous monitoring not only provides an accurate overview of the movement and deployment of individual products in the field, it also sends information about potential failures and shortcomings. As soon as a fault occurs, precise information is sent to headquarters to let technicians know in advance which specific vehicle has a problem, allowing them to prepare for its repair.
Elements of vehicles with which passengers come into direct contact are also undergoing development. Of course, all vehicles already have at least a partially low floor. In our vehicles, we are not only working to save energy, reduce weight and improve driving characteristics, we are also improving thermal comfort and orientation systems for the blind and visually impaired with new equipment and technologies. The new generation of RegioPanter electrical units has a device at the rear for remote control of entrance doors and an acoustic beacon for spatial orientation. Important signs are also in Braille, and the intercom has a tactile symbol. Innovations also include seats, which are now more comfortable, shelves are equipped with new reading lights, and the space for wheelchairs is newly designed according to the latest TSI PRM regulations. Tables were also improved, which now have larger area, and USB sockets for charging mobile devices have been added.
For the interior and exterior lighting of vehicles, LEDs are exclusively used to contribute to low electricity consumption. Another energy-saving measure is the regulation of heating and air-conditioning output according to the number of passengers in the vehicle. The number of passengers in a car is determined by the measured level of CO2 inside the vehicle.
POLL has developed air conditioning units that function as cooling and heating units in vehicle interiors. This new generation of air conditioners uses the “excess” heat of the air conditioner to heat the vehicle. The heat pumps use a similar principle, saving up to 40% of energy during winter operation compared to conventional heating. The device is not only cost-effective, it also ensures more environmentally friendly operation with lower energy consumption. Another advantage of this device is its size; it doesn’t differ much from a conventional air conditioner and can be built into existing air conditioner cabinets. The cost of a new air conditioning unit is therefore recouped relatively quickly, not only thanks to energy savings, but also thanks savings from reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Drives and motors produced by the Škoda group can stand up to tough competition. As a supplier, we have succeeded against American companies with one of the most demanding applications for high-performance traction motors. Caterpillar has used them for its diesel-electric mining vehicles. In these vehicles, customers demand exceptional engine reliability and robustness. Successfully managing the development of this engine for Caterpillar USA enabled the company to win the prestigious Caterpillar Best Supplier award in 2011. These are structurally completely unique machines that work in extremely demanding conditions. Škoda Electric and Sibelektroprivod had similar success with mining vehicle manufacturer Belaz. Even before the start of serial delivery, the Škoda equipment underwent tough tests in inhospitable Siberia. The equipment for mining vehicles can withstand operation at minus 50 degrees Celsius, in extremely dusty environments and under heavy operational loads. Belaz mining vehicles with a traction drive by Škoda Electric are used in a coal mine in the Kemerovo region. Its load capacity is 90 tons, powered by two AC traction motors, each with an output of 360 kW. The vehicle is more than ten metres long, four metres tall and six metre wides. Another successful project is a series of key locomotive parts that will run on lines in Central Asian Kazakhstan. This is a large and technically demanding project with unique customer requirements that includes a complete mechanical locomotive drive, engine, transmission and wheelset. This is due to the extreme temperature range from minus 55 to plus 55 degrees Celsius. Škoda engineers have developed a mechanical drive for GE Wabtec locomotives to withstand the extremely harsh climate that railway technology faces on the lines in Kazakhstan during the year. The nature of the climate and the terrain of local tracks sometimes causes rapid and high temperature fluctuations. The locomotive has to cope with a temperature difference of 20 degrees Celsius within a short period of time.