VTG freight wagons to harness solar power
The power of the sun is being utilised by a major freight provider to bring its fleet into the 21st century. VTG Aktiengesellshcaft (AG) has unveiled plans to use solar power to digitize its wagons, providing customers with real-time tracking capability.
Over the next three or four years the company says that it will install telematics – or in simple terms, the long-distance transmission of computerised information – on its whole European fleet of cargo wagons, some 80,000 in total. This, it claims, will facilitate faster, smoother and more efficient operations.
Dr Heiko Fischer, CEO of VTG AG, said: “We are the market leader, and we see it as our responsibility to make rail more attractive compared to other modes of transportation. That’s why we’re backing digitalization from end to end. A system that covers the entire European rail market is needed if rail freight transportation is to stay competitive in the long term. For this reason, we are equipping all VTG wagons in Europe with digital technology. This up-front investment marks a huge step forward for VTG and the whole industry.”
Powering the new technology is what the company calls the solar-powered VTG Connector, a small box fitted to each wagon. It means the position of each wagon is permanently available using GPS coordinates, which enables freight itineraries, arrival times and mileages to be accurately calculated. Using a process known as ‘geofencing’, customers can also receive alerts whenever wagons enter or leave a particular area, such as a port or border crossing. Crucially, an acceleration sensor provides data about any ‘impact’ incidents.
VTG says that providing their customers with enhanced digital capabilities helps boost productivity, reduces so-called ‘idle times’ – running power while stationary – and shortens the duration of round trips. “Essentially we are offering the entire industry the chance to realise further effective improvements,” added Dr Fischer. “We are also strengthening rail freight’s position as the backbone of smart and sustainable logistical solutions.
The European Commission (EC) has done a lot of work in recent years on developing the use of telematics in the freight sector. These include applications for information systems (real-time monitoring of freight and trains), marshalling and allocation systems, reservation, payment and invoicing systems, the management of intermodal connections with other modes of transport, and production of accompanying electronic documents.
The EC website has more information.