Energy Efficiency Improvement with Reversible Substations for Electrified Transportation Systems

Andrea Mariscotti1, *, Domenico Giordano2, Davide Signorino2
1 DITEN, University of Genova, Via Opera Pia 11A, Genova 16145, Italy
2 INRIM, Strada delle Cacce, 91, Torino 10135, Italy

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© 2023 Mariscotti et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the DITEN, University of Genova, Via Opera Pia 11A, Genova 16145, Italy; E-mail:


More and more often overall energy efficiency of an electrified transportation system appears as a target of new constructions, sometimes with incomplete definitions of performance indexes to assess that target has been reached. A worked out example is based on the introduction of reversible substations. Reversible substations are a method to improve energy efficiency, whose application in an existing system can be progressive and does not require large traffic intensity to be effective. Their effectiveness depends on some system parameters (nominal catenary voltage in particular). A simulation model fed with experimental data from a line section of Metro de Madrid is used to demonstrate the operation and optimization of reversible substations.


The ambitious reduction of CO2 greenhouse gas emission within 2050 declared by the European Commission also involves transportation systems. In this context an optimum recovery of the electric braking energy produced by railway vehicles is more and more relevant. Several strategies to completely recover the braking energy are being developed and applied. A methodology that allows the accurate determination of the amount of recovered energy in real operating conditions becomes then a valuable tool.


Reversible substations are one of the braking energy recovery methods that are widely applicable. Their effect is analyzed in a system perspective, considering them integrated into the transportation system with its dynamics and various operating points. The effectiveness and consequences of the operation of one or more reversible substations are evaluated by identifying relevant system conditions and scenarios.


An electric network model is provided, fed by measured timetable and traction current. Simulation results are analyzed and compared with some experimental results: simulation configurations will be selected to match those of the available experimental data.


The selected substation's no-load output voltage level has a significant effect on the efficiency and performance of reversible substations. A reduction of 50 V, from 1700 V to 1650 V produces a decrease of the energy dissipated by the braking rheostat on-board trains of about 13%. The voltage increase caused during braking phases is kept under control better for track positions close to reversible substations: tests show that line voltage increase is 2.5% of nominal value with a reversible substation and only 0.5% when it is operated. Trimming the thresholds that trigger the operation of the on-board braking chopper (intermingling regenerative and dissipative braking) has a dramatic effect on regenerability: a reduction of 50 V causes an improvement of 19%.


The paper presents a methodology that merges measurements and circuital model to investigate the energy saving provided by reversible substations supplying railway system. The methodology has been applied to a real case. Preliminary results regarding the impact of supply voltage level, reversible module position and threshold levels of the braking chopper control system on the dissipated braking energy and power quality has been carried out.

Keywords: Electric braking, Electrified transportation system, Energy efficiency, Metros, Railways, Regenerated energy, Reversible substation.