Gravity train: Clean-energy generation need not be an ‘uphill’ battle

Not surprisingly, gravity railroads – which were among our nation’s first railroads – are making a comeback – or are poised to. The gravity railroads that I’m speaking of are not in the business of hauling freight per se. Instead, the gravity, as employed in the application I’m talking about, is tied to energy production and energy storage.

Sound far-fetched? One company doesn’t think so, apparently.

Enter ARES: the Advanced Rail Energy Storage system.

Here is my understanding of the way the system works.

A railroad, constructed between two train storage yards – one at the top of a grade and one at the bottom – in this case serves as a platform for energy consumption and production. Shuttle trains in this case carry blocks (the blocks themselves having a given mass or weight) between the two yards – with transfer of rail vehicles or shuttle trains from the lower to upper rail yards occurring during off-peak hours when electricity demand is low, taking electricity supplied from the grid to power trains going uphill. Contrastingly, trains going downgrade produce power through a process known as regenerative braking. It is this power produced through the regenerative braking process that fuels the grid; ideally at times when energy demands are high. (A brief overview of the regenerative braking process is covered in: “CATS: Breaking friction-braking barriers with regenerative braking”).

Furthermore, and also as I understand it, the draw of grid-supplied electricity to run the rail vehicles during low-demand periods is small compared to that which is railcar generated and fed back into the same electric grid during periods of high energy demand. In fact, ARES cites an almost “80 percent charge / discharge efficiency” ratio.

Using a system that relies on electric motors, in the downgrade application, such have the capability to become electricity generators. It is through these generators that electricity can be produced; all made possible by train-axle rolling action which, in essence, turns mechanical into electrical energy. The reverse is true when electrical energy or electricity is converted into mechanical- or rail-traction power. In the latter application electric motors do the work, whereas in the former, the work of gravity is relied upon. (See also: “CATS: ‘Contactless’ energy-storage features give transit an edge” and “Capacitor energy storage feature to make U.S. October debut on light rail transit system”).

From a June 26, 2012 press release, it is noted: “ARES is designed to: guarantee grid security and reliability; support the increased use of renewable technologies; and to provide a grid-scale energy storage solution that does not rely on water. ARES is the first viable alternative to pumped hydro energy storage. ARES is less expensive, more efficient, and more widely deployable than pumped hydro storage technology and all other comparable storage technologies.”1

Also, from what I understand, Tehachapi, California is the locale of a scaled-down or reduced-scale track platform on which ARES system testing has taken place. Full-scale implementation roll-out may be right around the corner.

For more, see: “Grid Scale Energy Storage.”


  1. “James A. Kelly Joins ARES as CEO,” Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES) Press Release, Jun. 26, 2012.

– Alan Kandel

2 thoughts on “Gravity train: Clean-energy generation need not be an ‘uphill’ battle”

  1. Consider hydraulic accumulators and a closed water system. Windpump pressure the accumulator, power is drawn down by hydraulic motors as required and the water returned for re-use. Armstrong for his accumulators, Iron man for various sized wind pumps. On a gravity rail system the whole might be called wind powered. Pressures may be very high, or perhaps just 4 bar for safety and simplicity.

  2. We must reduce carbon emissions, because these enable the Green House Effect resulting in Global Warming? Is what we are told.

    This is a theory, a theory is a possible explanation, more often not the truth, but may still be useful.

    How many of us questioned how a green house actually works?

    Its heated by radiation, and our energy is all from the Sun with its vast bulk and high temperature. Our green house is hotter inside than the outside when the sun shines, and it cools quickly when it doesn’t.

    Open a window, or take away the glass and the temperature is lowered by convection. Now there is no glass around our planet, but we have an atmosphere. The Sun’s radiation penetrates this, warming the Earth. These atmospheric gases have properties acting as insulation, this impedes radiation in “both directions”. We don’t get too hot or cold. What is never explained by Warmists, is how more heat penetrates our atmosphere than escapes?

    Perpetual Motion machines are often devices of beauty and complexity, a Physicist knows they can never work as they breach the laws of energy, those who don’t know these laws can get bogged down in mechanical details, an adjustment to angles, better bearings, a better way of reversing magnets perhaps? Utube is full of these interesting but foolhardy devices!

    Phoney science is used a device for imposing carbon taxes, and is no more logical than perpetual motion.

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