Wireless Electric Propulsion Light
Rail Transit Systems in Spain
University of Granada
Emch+Berger AG Bern
• Light rail transit in Spain
• Types of wireless propulsion
• Wireless propulsion in Spanish LRT networks
• Experience with wireless propulsion in Spain
Lines in Spain
(Basemap: Google Maps)
(Photo: Andrew Nash)
Bilbao 345,000 5.57 2002 53.50 2.9 million
Vitoria 245,000 8.20 2008 108.65 7.7 million
5.40 2007 287.54
>16 million (all 3)Madrid ML2 8.70 2007 294.33
Madrid ML3 13.70 2007 296.60
Parla 125,000 8.20 2008 145.13 5.4 million
2003 - 07
378.00 26.8 million
(both)Barcelona Trambesos 14.10 344.52
Tenerife 357,000 (*) 15.90 2007 371.61 13.5 million
Murcia 441,000 18.00 2011 272.44 4.3 million
Valencia 790,000 20.00 1994 364.43 > 9 million
Granada 235,000 15.92 2017 592.04 ± 25,000 day
Seville 691,000 2.20 2007-11 60.54 4.1 million
Zaragoza 660,000 12.80 2011 452.82 28 million
Systems with partial
New LRT Lines: Basic Information
Types of Wireless Propulsion
1. Ground level power supply (GLPS) – power continuously
supplied to the vehicle at ground level via direct contact
with a conductor of inductively (Bordeaux);
2. On-board energy storage system (OESS) – power stored on
the vehicle using flywheels, batteries, supercapacitors or a
combination, recharged periodically via regenerative
braking and contact with a power supply.
3. On-board power generation system (OPGS) – power
continuously generated on the vehicle via fuel cells, micro
turbines or diesel engines.
Source: Swanson, J. and Smatlak, J.; State-of-the-art in Light Rail
Alternative Power Supplies; APTA/TRB 2015 Light Rail Conference
Wireless LRT in Spain
• Partial wireless propulsion in Seville, Zaragoza, and Granada.
• The 3 cities use same wireless system: Urbos III ACR trams
(Acumulador de Carga Rapida, English: fast charge
accumulator, or supercapacitor).
• But, they all use different methods for re-charging the
• ACR trams use braking energy (regenerative braking).
• Supercapacitor life expected to be 15-years.
• Recharge time is between 20-30 seconds.
• Technology developed by the Spanish tram manufacturer
CAF and the Technical Institute of Aragón.
• Tram runs through historic centre (tourist area).
• Extensive street redevelopment.
• Originally (2007) had catenary, in 2011 wires removed.
• Line length: 2.2 km (SHORT!); with 1.4 km wireless
• Ridership 4.1 million (2015).
• Cost: 27.5 million per km (total cost 61 million EUR).
• Recharging via rigid catenary section integrated into
Wires had to
(Photo: Easter procession
in Granada, Andrew Nash)
system at LRT
• Tram runs between two suburban centres via the historic
• Extensive street redevelopment (pedestrian zone).
• Line length: 12.8 km, with 2.2 km wireless (about 17%).
• Ridership: 28 million (2015).
• Cost: 35 million EUR per km (total cost 453 million EUR).
• Recharging via contact shoe and short sections of third rail
embedded in street at stops (only energised when tram is
Third rail charging
in street at LRT
Tram stopped at LRT
station in wireless
(Photo: Tranvía de Zaragoza
en la parada de las Murallas
commons, user: Ajzh2074)
• Tram serves several regional destinations via the centre city.
• Extensive street redevelopment and underground sections.
• Construction 2007 to 2017, due to world economic crisis.
• Line length: 16 km; 3 wireless sections: 4.7 km total (30%).
• Trams recharge from catenary (no special recharging).
• Cost: 37 million EUR per km (592 million EUR).
• Ridership: 12.9 million (estimated, open in Sept. 2017).
Tram with Sierra
(Photo: By Andreuvv -
Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Calle Real de
Armilla – wireless
• Average cost: million EUR / km
§ Non-wireless (Spain) 23.2
§ Wireless (3 cities) 33.4 (+44%)
§ Both figures higher than plain vanilla LRT projects.
• Key cost factor #1: extensive street redevelopment done
as part of LRT projects (especially in historic centres).
• Key cost factor #2: grade separation often used rather
than public transport priority measures and sharing the
street with other traffic.
Seville: Tram Station with Street Redevelopment
Tram in wireless
(Photo: By Héctor Ochoa
'Robot8A' - Own work, CC
Reasons for Wireless Propulsion
• Official reason: mitigate visual impacts.
• However, wireless propulsion often used to help
overcome general resistance towards public transport
service that reduces space for automobiles.
• Other strategies to overcome resistance include full
redevelopment of streets and grade separation.
• These strategies significantly affect LRT costs.
Operator Survey Results (1)
Service Availability No differences
Maintenance (Vehicles) More
Maintenance (Catenary) Less
Maintenance (wireless) Special requirements (e.g., location beacons)
Additional first responder training,
SIL 4 requirement for 3rd rail in street (Zaragoza)
Operations Trams must be precisely positioned for recharging.
Operator Survey Results (2)
Wireless sections must be carefully designed to
ensure that trams have sufficient energy to reach
Air conditioning Uses a significant amount of power.
Historic / Ped Zones Require less power due to slower speeds.
Energy storage All operators would like higher storage capacity.
Regenerative braking Regenerative braking is a good benefit.
Long term maintenance Too early to tell, but recharging cycles important.
Operator Survey Results (3)
Visual impacts All operators appreciate reduced visual impacts.
All operators are considering use of wireless
propulsion for future extensions.
All operators believe public image is improved
with wireless propulsion.
Safety No safety problems have been identified to date.
• Wireless propulsion has been used successfully in Spain.
• Wireless propulsion has clear benefits in terms of reducing
visual impacts and thereby increasing support for LRT.
• Measures including urban redevelopment, underground
sections and wireless propulsion tend to increase costs.
• This paper presents a high level survey of wireless LRT in Spain.
• It was difficult to obtain detailed cost data (costs aggregated).
• Further research: more detailed cost data, including
maintenance and vehicle as systems age, and detailed follow-
up with agencies on operating experience.