IKERLAN and Premium PSU develop an ultra-compact auxiliary converter that uses catenary energy to power the air conditioning system of the Turin tramway carriages

Gipuzkoa, News

The IKERLAN technology centre has developed, in collaboration with Premium PSU, an auxiliary converter powered from the catenary of a tram to operate the air-conditioning system of the carriages.

Using silicon carbide semiconductors, IKERLAN has developed one of the smallest and most efficient converters on the market.

The technology centre is a benchmark in the development of applications based on this technology, the application of which is benefiting companies in the railway, automotive and aeronautical sectors.

The power electronics manufacturer Premium PSU has developed, in collaboration with the Basque technology centre IKERLAN, a customised power converter to supply the auxiliary systems of the tram network in Turin (Italy). Thanks to a technology based on silicon carbide semiconductors, the ultra-compact converter, which is powered directly from the catenary, operates the auxiliary systems such as the air conditioning and heating system of the passenger carriages and the driver’s cab.

Since the beginning of September, some thirty convoys have been running in the Italian city with this new generation of converters; a technology developed between PREMIUM PSU and IKERLAN that offers the opportunity to minimise the volume and weight of the equipment while maintaining high system efficiency. The converter developed is one of the smallest devices on the market for trams operating at voltages of 600 V and 750 V, and which complies with international railway electrification standards (EN50163, which focuses mainly on the voltages and overvoltages that traction and auxiliary equipment of the railway system must withstand). It occupies approximately the same space as a washing machine and can generate up to 40 kW, with an efficiency of over 92%.

Luis Mir, head of the Power Electronics area at IKERLAN, explains that the requirements that the equipment had to meet in terms of dimensions, power and weight represented “quite a challenge, as we had to design a converter that was as light as possible, which would fit within a maximum size of 30 x 36 x 110 cm”.

“Technologies like this allow us to move towards greater sustainability of electric mobility systems. Having lighter, more compact and highly efficient equipment applied to trains means reducing vehicle consumption, i.e. being able to transport people with a lower impact on energy generation,” adds Luis Mir.

Premium PSU is a Catalan company specialising in the design and manufacture of energy conversion systems for the industrial and railway market, whose portfolio includes important clients in the sector such as CAF, ABB, Bombardier and Skoda, among others. Regarding its collaboration with IKERLAN, the company’s CEO, Jordi Gazo, states that “thanks to the collaboration with IKERLAN, we managed to develop a light, very compact, highly efficient and innovative catenary inverter in less than a year. These collaborations with technology centres such as IKERLAN, which provide us with knowledge and innovation, allow Premium PSU to achieve very tight product development times and with the most advanced technologies on the market”.

IKERLAN is a reference centre for the development of technology based on silicon carbide. In the Power Electronics area, it has been researching this technology for more than ten years. For more than five years, the centre has positioned itself as a benchmark in the application of silicon carbide semiconductor technology in different sectors, in which weight, volume and efficiency are very important factors.

IKERLAN has applied this technology in railway vehicle traction systems (for trams and metros), in the electrification of aeronautical equipment, in electric vehicle chargers (plug-in and wireless), as well as in inverters for the integration of battery-based storage to support the electricity grid.

Turin is not the only Italian tramway network to incorporate technology developed in IKERLAN. The Florence tramway system, for example, has the solution developed thanks to the Elastic European research project; a technology that lays the foundations for future autonomous and safe mobility systems that allow, for example, reducing incidents, accidents and maintenance costs, as well as improving urban traffic.


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