On track to slash Beijing subway energy use

The heavy energy use of Beijing’s subway system could be nearly halved, thanks to high-temperature superconducting (HTS) technology.

The subway system, one of the Chinese capital’s biggest energy users, is set to benefit from a multi-million-dollar deal between Robinson Research Institute and Beijing Milestone Science and Technology Development Company Ltd.

The deal will also make Robinson-developed portable magnetic resonance imaging machines, known as podMRIs, available to China’s regional hospitals.

Milestone chairman Mi Wang says he was “drawn to Robinson because of its ability to develop market-ready technology based on an in-depth understanding of science and engineering. It is one of the few places with the experience to design and build the high-speed HTS rotors needed for the flywheels my company is developing.”

The flywheels are effectively energy storage devices, says Robinson principal engineer Dr Rod Badcock.

“When trains slow down to stop at stations, the flywheel will store the train’s kinetic energy and can later supply it back to them with take-off. Currently, a great deal of energy is expended in braking and accelerating trains. With the HTS flywheel to capture and reuse this energy, the savings are estimated to be as high as 40 percent of the energy used by the Beijing subway system.”

Along with a parallel Robinson agreement with Milestone, Jiangsu Zhongguancun Science and Technology Industrial Park and Suzhou New District Economic Development Group Corporation, the deal further cements the role of New Zealand involvement in China’s drive to boost green technologies and high-value manufacturing.

“HTS is a key enabling technology of the future and New Zealand is a leader in its development,” says Robinson director Professor Bob Buckley. “China, through Milestone and the other signatories, is keen and ready to adopt these two HTS applications and to work with us on developing a range of others.”