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Dec 10th, 2012
 
The rail industry is now more than ever the perfect opportunity for power electronics
 
Power Electronics for Rail Applications, the new report from Yole Développement.
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Yole Développement announces its Power Electronics for Rail Applications report. Yole Développement’s report focuses on the rail industry. Yole Développement Power Electronics team analyzes how this industry is structured, its market and players and technological developments that will impact the power electronics market.

A power electronics market that will be multiplied by 1.7, reaching $4.5 billion by 2020
Rail traction can be segmented into three main sub-applications: urban vehicles (trams and metros), regional and commuters (mostly Electrical Multiple Units, or “EMUs”) and high speed trains (power cars and EMUs). With a total market size of 4,000 units in 2012 and more than 6,000 expected in 2020, the railway industry is without question an attractive one!
Of course, the rail industry means steady, not rapid growth, for two main reasons: long - term system manufacturing and government-related business. On the upside, the rail industry is safe and encourages innovation.

Moreover, emerging regions such as South America, Africa/Middle East and Southeast Asia are demanding more and more in terms of public transportation.

The related inverters market for public transportation is today estimated at $3 billion, and is expected to reach $4.5 billion by 2020. In this new report Yole Développement shows how and why rail is dynamic, with the main reasons being commuter trains and related EMU architecture As a consequence, the power electronics market represents an excellent opportunity for revenue generation in high-end systems, both in terms of semiconductor-based components and passive ones.
Indeed, with an estimated price of $13,000 for power modules in urban vehicles and $135,000 in high-speed trains, we estimate a total market size of more than $200 million for power modules and almost $300 million for all passives (capacitors, resistors, inductors, connectors, busbars and transformers) in 2012,” explains Brice Le Gouic, Activity Leader, Power Electronics at Yole Développement.

The rail industry’s expected technological developments occur at every level
Even if the rail industry has a slow ramp up, the major players are competitive companies often involved in other utility sized businesses.

Therefore, the rail industry both suggests and benefits from major developments, especially in power electronics.
Yole Développement analysts do not forecast strong evolution from a passive components perspective; however, they definitely believe that a semiconductor revolution has its place in trains, trams and metros.

We see evolution from a systems point-of-view:
• Trains are evolving; Yole Développement expects to see rolling systems with 10kV power electronics components inside
• Train architecture is changing; electrification is key and more inverters are required. This means more power electronics
• At the inverter level, key components can be assembled to create an important value, i.e. “Here comes the PowerStack”: Yole Développement provides a complete analysis of PowerStack evolution and how it will be a versatile subsystem, good for wind turbines and a perfect fit with the rail industry’s key requirements. In particular, sub-system and passive components (plus passive component players) will garner high interest.
• Lastly, at the device level and especially at the material level: SiC is on every main player’s production roadmap and will be essential as soon as 1.7kV MOSFETs are available. Trains are an interesting playground for such developments, because even if SiC remains expensive, a system as big as a train will be only slightly impacted by the cost: let’s see what happens after 2016.

The key parameters for SiC adoption are high-voltage device availability (up to 10kV), cost reduction, guaranteed reliability and the fact that huge improvements can be made in the rail industry with SiC. Currently, switching devices and diodes are Silicon-based (IGB T almost exclusively for transistors). Only a few thyristors are used for basic and old locomotive designs.

The train industry supports local and global players
The aforementioned technological advancements impact the supply chain; Indeed, in this report, Yole Développement team illustrates how it is likely to evolve.

First, Yole Développement sees more and more joint ventures and worldwide partnerships driven by the “three big ones” (Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier). In fact, they require a presence in the dynamic regions of the globe, and at the same time they transfer some of their tech knowledge to local companies. The recent example of Alstom and Transmashholding in Russia is an accurate depiction of how important it is to be global.

The case of Chinese companies like CSR and CNR is also valid: over the last decade, they have created partnerships with the major European and American companies in order to access technological knowledge.

Furthermore, vertical integration is habitual. Like almost every power electronics application, it is synonymous with internal knowledge consolidation and cost reduction. Large players – when not contracting smaller players, i.e. CAF with Trainelec in Spain – have internal divisions representing motor and gear manufacturing, inverters, power electronics pantographs, etc.; all of this knowledge internal! The Russian leader Transmashholding and its 14 subsidiaries are a prime example of this “internal accumulation of knowledge”. Another example is the acquisition of Dynex by the Chinese giant CSR, which makes CSR the first Chinese company to master IGB T die manufacturing.

In a nutshell, as diverse and as inaccessible as it may look, the rail industry is now more than ever the perfect opportunity for power electronics: a clear, safe and innovative future is unfolding.

More information about the report here.

 

 
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