Monorail-Energy Use

Monorail systems developed over the past several decades, including virtually all currently in service world wide, are powered by approximately 750 volt electrical motors, which draw electrical energy from electrical distribution equipment attached to their guide way rails. Electrical power consumption is largely determined by the design of the respective electrical systems of specific monorail vehicles and the overall weight or mass of the trains. Other determinants of power demand and consumption are based on operational performance demands including acceleration, operating speeds and frequency of service.

Although most existing monorail systems are much more energy efficient than any other mass transit technology, further improvements have been developed. Most monorail manufacturers also manufacture buses and rail vehicles. Rail vehicles in particular are the results of many years of evolution of heavier systems. “Light Rail” vehicles are even heavier than subway vehicles and “Heavy Rail” vehicles. This is a result of the fact that “light rail” vehicles are literally designed for greater impact protection because they cross or share their routes with automobiles, freight trucks, and freight rail traffic.

Although monorails are normally elevated, and operate completely independently of other forms of transport vehicles, many models and configurations of monorail vehicles are substantially heavier than more recently designed monorail vehicles and systems. While all monorails are more efficient, and use much less energy than all other forms of mass transit, new developments in monorail vehicle technology greatly improve this advantage. For example, one monorail system manufacturer discloses in their public brochure that their energy use is less than ten percent of the energy use (measured in fuel costs) of a light rail system. However, the truly innovative leap in monorail efficiency and energy independence has been achieved through the development and implementation of monorail vehicles that generate all of the electrical power required for full operation on board the vehicles. This state of complete independence from electrical distribution facilities, electrical distribution grids and power generation plants should begin to set the performance standards for the monorail industry as it moves away from the steel-wheeled, steel rail models and traditions of the American rail industry.

Most recently developed monorail vehicles are constructed of advanced materials including carbon fiber and composites, providing greater strength and durability for the vehicles at much lighter weights, and much less massive infrastructure and smaller surface footprint; which in turn conserves resources, energy and cost at every stage of the manufacture, construction, operation and maintenance of monorail systems. Monorail technology’s comprehensive energy efficiency allows significant use of alternative energy sources, application of breakthrough developments in compact fuel cells, solar power and regenerative-braking that enhance the efficiency and independence of monorail systems and operations.

2 Responses to “Monorail-Energy Use”

  1. Brent Harding says:

    Why can’t monorail technology be used to power generators and generate more power than what the actual monorail would use or would that just be counterproductive to the economy?

    • Eric Wickland says:

      While monorail technology has been advanced to where monorail vehicles and systems are now capable of generating all electrical power required for full operation of vehicles and systems on board the vehicles completely independent of electrical grids and distribution systems, there is at this time no practical means of generating power to supplement electrical distribution system or grids.

      Some research and development in this area could advance monorail technology to the point where excess power, the power beyond what is needed for monorail operation, could be fed into local power grids.

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