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An interview with Euskotren, the Basque railway operator, about the new Silicon Carbide technology developed within Shift2Rail set to transform traction systems in Europe

Our Executive Director, Carlo Borghini sat down to talk to José Antonio Gorostiza, Director of Technology and Operations at Euskotren, the Basque railway network operator, to find out about how the new Silicon Carbide technology (SiC), developed within Shift2Rail, is going to have a positive impact on train capacity and passenger comfort.


Shift2Rail signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Basque Country in January of last year to maximise collaboration with the region and enhance the leverage effect of our Research and Innovation work in Europe. The integration of this new SiC technology is evidence of Shift2Rail’s R&I efforts making advances in reaching market deployment, thanks to this fruitful collaboration.

Carlo Borghini: The SiC technology developed within Shift2Rail’s PINTA and PINTA-2 projects is a game changer for traction systems in Europe. Our Member CAF, in collaboration with Euskotren and IKERLAN, has developed an innovative traction system based fully on this technology. Why is it so significant, and what impact will it have from the operations perspective?

José Antonio Gorostiza: SiC technology will allow to obtain more reliable train units due to the reduction in the number of components used. It will also allow to improve the availability and punctuality of the train due to the reduction in the number of failure errors thanks to the use of a more robust technology with greater capabilities compared to the previous technology. SiC technology will allow to increase the capacity of the train due to the reduction of space of traction components, as well as the increase of response time of traction and braking which increases the capacity of train units per itinerary. The Life Cycle Costs will be significantly reduced and will manifest itself in more competitive and sustainable trains. The operational advantages of spreading this solution are therefore clear: reliability, availability, punctuality, energy cost reduction and maintenance cost reduction.

Carlo Borghini: Which benefits does this innovative solution bring?

José Antonio Gorostiza: The development of the new railway traction converter considerably reduces CO2 emissions due to its lower energy consumption and greater efficiency in the traction chain. The reduction in weight, volume and acoustic noise offer greater train capacity and therefore greater passenger comfort.

As a consequence of this new development of SiC technology, a balance is achieved between energy consumption, passenger comfort and environmental impact, that offers greater sustainability in the railway field.

Carlo Borghini: How will this solution reduce maintenance tasks?

José Antonio Gorostiza: By reducing the number of components, equipment maintenance will be greatly reduced. In addition, this technology will make it posible to go from forced cooling systems to natural cooling in many cases, reducing the time and cost of maintenance work. The new monitoring systems associated with this technology, will allow a Smart Maintenance based on Artificial Intelligence that will make it possible to predict failures before they occur.

Carlo Borghini: What impact do you expect this solution to have in terms of energy savings?

José Antonio Gorostiza: Reducing energy losses, due to the new semiconductors, and reducing the associated cooling systems as well as increasing the efficiency of the traction chain, the energy bill will be greatly reduced, achieving highly efficient trains with great energy savings.

Carlo Borghini: How will the solution impact the future design of rolling stock?

José Antonio Gorostiza: It will be possible to reduce the volume and weight of the traction systems with a greater use of space and greater efficiency in traction and braking, thus increasing the availability and capacity of the rolling stock.

Carlo Borghini: Finally, what are the next steps for the new converter at Euskotren?

José Antonio Gorostiza: The full SiC prototype has just been recently deployed within a Euskotren unit, and will remain in commercial service for the next two years. We look forward to following its progress and to witnessing the various benefits it will bring.