The spectacular Swiss Eiger Express cable car runs from the Grindelwald terminal to the Eigergletscher station and is the second arm of the V-Bahn. ABB provided the drive solutions for the Eiger Express - as it did for the gondola lift up the Männlichen.
The view through the heated panaroma windows of the cabins is unique. On the left, the legendary Eiger North Face. On the right, the Lauberhorn. Behind, the valley basin with Grindelwald. In front, the Eigergletscher station, where you can either take the piste, the hiking trail or continue up to the Jungfraujoch.
The Eiger Express in Switzerland, which goes into operation in December 2020, also impresses with its technical data: The gondolas travel at a speed of 8 metres per second, or just under 29 kilometres per hour. The usual speed is 6 metres per second. Passengers notice this at the latest during the rapid entry into the Eigergletscher station, where the gondola is slowed down to the station speed in a controlled manner. In this way, the lift covers a distance of almost 6.5 kilometres and an altitude difference of 1,385 metres in just 15 minutes.
Four electric motors with frequency converters
ABB supplied the drive solution for this spectacular ropeway: four electric motors with an output of 500 kilowatts each, each driven by a regenerative ACS880 frequency converter. "For our end customer, Jungfrau Railways, the maximum availability and reliability of the Eiger Express is a top priority. So our group of companies decided to use motors and frequency converters from ABB. We are convinced of their quality and know ABB from experience as a reliable partner," says Raphael Reinle, responsible project manager at Garaventa. Garaventa AG is the Swiss part of the Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group, which realised the Eiger Express. Frey AG Stans, a subsidiary of the group, is responsible for the electrical control system and has integrated the drive solution from ABB.
The availability of the railway is ensured by the design with the four packages of motor and frequency converter installed in the Eigergletscher station. Even if one of these drive trains should fail, the Eiger Express will continue to run. At the slightly lower speed of 6 metres per second, but at full capacity.
The cable car's 44 gondolas can carry 2,200 people per hour. "The system has to provide the greatest performance when garaging out of the terminal in Grindelwald Grund, when no gondolas are yet acting as counterweights downhill," Reinle explains. Dozens of ABB frequency converters are also used for parking, which protects the gondolas from environmental influences at the end of operation.
Energy used during braking in the station
16 regenerative ABB converters are also installed for accelerating and braking the gondolas at the top and bottom stations. The resulting kinetic braking energy is converted into electrical energy and fed back into the grid. With a fully occupied gondola, around 30 watt hours can be recuperated in this way. The recovered braking energy during one rotation of the 44 gondolas - each at the top and bottom stations - amounts to about 2.5 kilowatt hours. Extrapolated over the entire operating year, this adds up to quite a bit of recuperated energy.
The Eiger Express is a 3S lift that combines the advantages of a gondola lift with those of an aerial tramway to form a detachable circulating lift. The two suspension cables ensure high stability even in strong winds. "We were able to experience and confirm this live on the opening day. The Föhn was blowing down into the valley at up to 100 kilometres per hour. It was really impressive how calm the gondolas remained. Inside, we hardly felt anything of the storm," Reinle recalls.
The gondolas are currently probably the most modern cable car cabins in the world. The 26 seats can be heated, as can the panoramic glazing - so that the view remains unobstructed in winter. Two screens provide passengers with information. The energy for this is generated by each gondola itself, with newly developed roller generators. The eight rollers thus supply each cabin with 4 kilowatts of power en route.
The second leg of the V-Bahn
The Eiger Express is the second leg of the V-Bahn. It shares the modern Grindelwald Terminal, which is connected to the public rail network, with the Männlichenbahn, which opens at the end of 2019. With a length of 6,100 metres, the 10-seater Grindelwald-Männlichen gondola lift replaced the old gondola lift built in 1978 as part of the V-Bahn project, doubling transport capacity from 900 to 1,800 guests per hour with 111 gondolas and reducing journey time from 30 minutes to 19 minutes. It is driven by two 800-kilowatt motors from ABB, each with a regenerative frequency converter.
The name Generation Project does justice to the V-Bahn. Jungfrau Railways have invested a total of 470 million Swiss francs in the Bernese Oberland. This will shorten the journey time to the Jungfraujoch by three quarters of an hour, which will further increase the attractiveness of the "Jungfraujoch - Top of Europe" as a Swiss tourism highlight.