Time to market challenges
Basically, the technologies used to develop railway power supplies are very similar to those used in other segments, and with years of experience, developers of the former have built up expertise enabling them to reduce development times. However, new standards and the introduction of new technologies increase development time. Considering the wide range of power supplies used in railways, if we exclude so-called “standard” products such as modules for boards having a development cycle of about 14 months, more of customers’ complex projects can easily reach 24 or even more months without approval. This means working closely with OEMs who, aware of these delays and facing increasing competition from Asia, are pushing for the development of blocks of functions that can be reused on multiple projects.
Because of the large and increasing demand for modernization of rail systems, design lead times have to be short, which means a different approach. In the case of rolling stock, this is rather complicated involving a lot of specific aspects such as certifications. In the case of traffic control and signalling systems, the constraints are less stringent and it is possible to use power supplies such as those for DIN rail mounting that already exist. An energy subsystem such as Powerbox’s Battery Backup Unit (BBU) can be customized in less than three months to meet specific demands, including the addition of radio transmission telemetry systems - see figure 4. This is the type of modularity that OEMs are beginning to implement in rolling stock, but it will take time.
The impact of modernizing railway networks on power supplies has many aspects because it is not conceivable to stop the operation of lines, nor to replace all existing infrastructure. For rolling stock, this often involves the addition of complementary technologies such as Wi-Fi for passenger comfort or on-board telemetry to increase safety. In this case, the power supplies are of a rather standard type and are often part of the installed system without any major change to rolling stock.