E-buses and light rail vehicles deliver eco-friendly mobility.

The Knorr-Bremse family is growing and growing. Electric drives and systems from Kiepe Electric are the basis of future-facing environmentally friendly projects for the public transportation sector. With the increasing electrification of mass transit systems, the Knorr-Bremse Group has already come up with new application possibilities for vehicle manufacturers and operators.

Charging and traction added to portfolio

Düsseldorf company Kiepe Electric, has been part of Knorr-Bremse since January 2017. It specializes in all types of electrical systems for

  • light rail, subways and regional rail
  • battery, trolley and In Motion Charging (IMC) buses

In Motion Charging (IMC) buses run on battery power on parts of the route where there are no overhead lines. The buses can cover up to 25 kilometers in this mode, depending on the system design and the exact nature of the route. Their electric batteries are then recharged using fast-charging technology on the sections of the route where overhead lines are present. This technology massively extends the buses’ range. At the same time, the acquisition of Kiepe Electric expands Knorr-Bremse’s traction business – the part of the system that drives the vehicle – which until now had been a relatively minor part of the Group’s portfolio.

Energy management systems for rail vehicles and e-buses

“We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach,” explains Dr. Ludger Schülting, member of the Management Board of Kiepe Electric. “Rather, we tailor energy management systems to the specific application requirements of each rail vehicle or e-bus.” The portfolio includes everything from heating, air conditioning, ventilation and cooling systems to traditional rail components such as on-board power and traction converters, battery chargers, energy storage systems, and even small rail appliances. These include control units, signaling and safety devices, relays, and switches – in short, everything necessary for a transport market heading inexorably towards electric mobility.

“We are clearly addressing the market requirement that the local public transport of the future will almost exclusively be powered by electricity,” says Schülting. Transport experts are in no doubt about the promising future offered by the prospect of electric-powered mass transit systems, not least because this drive system represents a major factor in keeping particulate emissions in inner cities within prescribed limits.

We tailor energy management to specific applications.

Dr. Ludger Schülting – Member of the Management Board of Kiepe Electric

Testing down to the tiniest detail

Kiepe Electric tests its systems for production readiness at its own systems testing facility in Düsseldorf. The facility consists of nine test benches capable of handling up to 30,000 volts. Firmly anchored in tons of foundation cement in the basement are a number of giant dynamometers, some of them powerful enough to measure up to 1.4 megawatts. Despite this aura of intense power, the testing facility remains incredibly intricate. The dynamometers enable engineers to precisely adjust rotational speed and torque – in other words, the engine speed and pulling force of the products and systems being tested. “We use them to test specific driving profiles under various loads,” explains the head of the Systems Testing Facility, Holger Stiber.

Anything leaving the production lines at Kiepe Electric has already undergone extensive testing here, regardless of whether it is a small component, a complete traction system, or a new roof container. Kiepe Electric recently developed the latter for a project in Gothenburg, Sweden. The system symbolically combines the company’s core competencies: traction, on-board power, and vehicle control system – all working hand in glove and housed in a space-saving container so flat that vehicle manufacturers can mount it on the vehicle roof.

In-house system test bay (9 test stations, voltage range of up to 30,000 volts)

Synergies between Kiepe and Knorr-Bremse

But the acquisition of Kiepe means far more to Knorr-Bremse than a simple portfolio expansion. The approach taken by the two companies is one of carefully designed integration into the Group. This has been achieved, for example, by combining the Kiepe System Diagnosis (KSD) with the Knorr-Bremse Connected Systems approach to create a powerful diagnostic tool, or by introducing the globally standardized Knorr-Bremse Production System (KPS) in Kiepe Electric’s production facilities. In turn, of course, Kiepe Electric can access the well-established channels of the global Knorr-Bremse sales network. Introduction of a globally standardized Knorr-Bremse Production System (KPS) to production operations at Kiepe Electric is also undergoing consideration; in return, best-practice examples will also be fed back into the Group-wide KPS.

Preparations are already underway for the next phase, which involves the adaptation of Kiepe Electric’s systems for electric commercial vehicle applications. “We have taken the first steps and made the initial key decisions”, says Dr.-Ing. Ludger Schülting.

Projects from Bielefeld to San Francisco

Kiepe Electric was already directly responsible for bringing new business to Knorr-Bremse during the year under review. For instance, Bielefeld utilities subsidiary moBiel ordered 24 Vamos GTZ8-B high-floor light rail vehicles from a consortium of Kiepe Electric and Leipzig-based vehicle manufacturer Heiterblick. The City of San Francisco is also expanding its fleet of zero-emission transit buses. After procuring 93 articulated Xcelsior XT60 electric buses, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has placed an order for 185 New Flyer XT40 buses equipped with In Motion Charging technology from Kiepe Electric – now one of the leading suppliers of traction systems for electric buses in the USA.

Kiepe Electric is also involved in a major project to refurbish Vienna Stadtbahn’s rolling stock. The main part of the refurbishment involves completely replacing the drive units of 78 low-floor articulated multiple units. In addition to modern air-cooled converters, Kiepe Electric is installing its new 600-generation on-board power converters, featuring a new control technology. As part of the package, the Group will also be supplying a new control system and equipping 468 doors with new electric door drives, to be supplied by Knorr-Bremse subsidiary IFE. Kiepe Electric has well and truly arrived in the Knorr-Bremse family.

The IMC500 bus replaces a diesel coach line by electric buses travelling 77% without overhead lines. | © Michael Kramer

Kiepe Electric tailors its energy management systems to the specific operating conditions of each individual rail vehicle or e-bus.

Low noise and low emissions: An IMC battery bus from Kiepe Electric in the center of Esslingen

The new electric buses with IMC technology from Kiepe Electric on the Altoona test track | © Larson Transportation Institute Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pennsylvania State University

The Vamos GTZ8-B light rail vehicle | © moBiel 2011, photographer: Veit Mette

The refurbishment measures are designed to get the low-floor cars, which entered service between 1993 and 1999, into shape for the next 20 years. The cars currently operate on metro line 6 in the Austrian capital, running from Floridsdorf to Siebenhirten. | © Manfred Helmer

An Xcelsior XT60 IMC electric bus on service in San Francisco | © Klaus P. Canavan

Kiepe on board: Light rail vehicle Citylink NET 2012, Karlsruhe, Germany | © VBK

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