Japan railway plans lighter, less power hungry bullet train

Central Japan Railway will in about four years introduce a new bullet train that will be lighter and consume 7% less electricity than the latest varieties in operation, the company announced Friday.

The N700S “is an innovative rolling stock that is a product of rapid [technological] advancement,” President Koei Tsuge told a press conference that day. Although he did not specify the investment amount, making it into the company’s mainstay bullet train would mean spending well north of 100 billion yen ($977 million).

The new train will run on the Tokaido shinkansen line connecting Tokyo and Osaka, which accounts for 90% of the company’s fare revenue. The model will be the linchpin of its bullet train service until its magnetic-levitation line opens in 2027. Prototype N700S carriages will be completed by spring 2018 with service to begin starting in the fiscal year ending March 2021.

Top operating speeds will clock in at 285kph on the Tokaido line, unchanged from the N700A, the latest version introduced in 2013.

A set of 16 N700S cars will weigh 20 tons less than a train consisting of the same number of N700A cars and nearly 300 tons less than the 0 series, the first shinkansen model. The weight will fall below the 700 ton threshold for the first time. The lead car comes designed with edges that will reduce the amount of noise and improve aerodynamic performance.

The weight reduction is the fruit of joint technological development efforts launched four years ago with Toshiba, Hitachi and two other major electronics firms. Drive systems at the bottom of carriages will be miniaturized through the use of silicon carbide-based power semiconductors.

All seats will have electrical plugs so passengers can charge mobile devices. The carriages will also come equipped with small, large-capacity lithium-ion batteries so that people can use bathrooms even during power outages.

The N700S can accommodate trains of various lengths. The company, better known as JR Tokai, is providing technical support for a shinkansen project in Texas and is pursuing orders to replace rolling stock in Taiwan. Both places utilize shorter trains than what is seen on the Tokaido line, and the N700S “can be used in Texas and in Taiwan,” said Tsuge.

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