New ‘Very High Speed’ Train Goes 220 mph and Has No Centralized Engine

This month, the French company Alstom Transport is testing its brand new “very high speed” train, the AGV (or Automotrice à Grande Vitesse), on live tracks in Eastern France.  Unlike most trains, which have a single engine car in the front or back, the AGV has a series of distributed motors underneath the passenger carriages, which saves space and allows the train to carry 20% more passengers.  (Notice in the photo below how little space there is from the nose of the train to the first passenger seats.)

The AGV is being tested over 12 nights this month on the Eastern high-speed line, between the Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine stations, at its ideal speed of 224 mph.  In comparison, the American high speed Acela train travels at a top speed of 150 mph.

The test train is outfitted with 4,000 sensors that will look at both the train’s overall mechanical capabilities, as well as the interior passenger compartment.  Although significant testing has already been done with computer models and on closed course test tracks, it is impossible to perfectly replicate the environment a train will face on live tracks.

Some of the features being tested at high speeds include the train’s acoustics, vibration levels, wheel-to-rail dynamics, and forces exerted upon passengers.  Additionally, safety features, such as the emergency braking mechanism is being tested through the activation of the brakes on tracks made slippery with soapy water.  This is intended to simulate extreme conditions, such as when leaves may be covering the rails. 

Additionally, electromagnetic interference will be measured by using aerial sensors hung above the tracks.  This is to ensure that the train does not interfere with local radio and TV reception, as well as to make sure its own communications systems will work. 

Alstom, which also builds the TGV and Eurostar trains, hopes that if the AGV passes these live tests it will receive final European certification by next year so that it can begin delivering production models by 2010.  Already, Italian transportation company NTV has ordered 25 trainsets, with an option to buy 10 more. 

Not only is the AGV able to transport more people at higher speeds, but it is also environmentally friendly.  The AGV has low greenhouse gas emissions, with approximately 2.2g for every km traveled per passenger, which is 13 times less than a bus (30g), 50 times less than a car (115g) and 70 times less than a plane (153g).  Of course, as the electricity generated to electrify the train gets cleaner, so will the train.

Fortunately, it seems Europe and Asia are not the sole locations embracing high speed rail.  Recently, there has been a dramatic increase in focus on high speed rail in the United States, with the passage of Prop 1A in California, the election of apparent clean tech and infrastructure advocate Barack Obama, and the continuing development of potential projects in Texas, the Midwest, Florida, the Pacific Northwest, and possibly Minnesota.  Hopefully, further developments like the AGV in Europe will inspire the U.S. to continue along this path, and maybe someday we’ll see this amazing train in America. 

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  1. I was trying to figure out what type of system California is planning to use for their high speed rail, but I haven’t been able to find it. Anyone know who if Alstom or a different European company is going to mfg the CA system?

    • An undefined, unregulated version brought to you by the wasteful minds behind the “Big Dig” in Boston. So, it’s probably going to be a box on wheels.

  2. Bill, I remember seeing some early stuff on this in the LA Times that indicated the train will likely be from Asia and the switching gear from Europe. I’ve searched for it but cannot find the specific article.

  3. Chris & BillC., I don’t believe CA has decided who will mfg the high speed rail system yet. This is from the state’s website:

    “The California High-Speed Train Project will procure extensively-proven high-speed train technology from Europe or Asia. There are a number of potential manufacturers worldwide and the precise type of steel-wheel-on-steel-rail trains will be decided through the state’s competitive bid process. Like the new lines being planned and built in Europe and Asia, the California High-Speed Rail Project assumes the use of the latest generation of high-speed train technology, which is capable of sustained operational speeds of over 220 mph.”

  4. While I agree that this is a very high tech system, the original Shinkansan 0-Series in 1964 was built on the same de-centralized engine platform.

  5. Pingback: New Very High Speed Train Goes 220mph with No Central Engine - The Environment Site Forums

  6. The list of CO2 emissions is only true if all seats are used, and if the train runs in france.

    On an averange trip the car will produce most CO2 per passenger, because cars rarely are fully loaded, planes however are full on most flights.

    Trains have on averange only 40% of the seats used during a trip. Furthermore, even if all seats were taken, high-speed trains consume most energy per seat. but france produces almost all of its energy with nuclear power. In germany (only 20% nuclear) traveling with a high speed train produces most CO2 per passenger. you can only top it, if you drive alone in an large american car. Another disadvantage of trains is the fact, that you have to travel more distance in order to reach the same target location.

  7. Frank Komitsky Jr says:

    The high speed shuttle to the Shanghai Airport is German-built, I believe.

  8. Pingback: Passing Loop

  9. 2.2 g vs 30g for a bus is a VERY low estimate
    Other estimates claim VFTrains are worse than bus.
    I hope the 2.2g is true, but I would also like a 2nd opinion.

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