China’s high-speed rail industry reached another milestone as the Fuxing, a new electric multiple units (‘EMU’) bullet train designed by China Railway Corporation, made its debut on the Beijing and Shanghai route on June 26.
The world’s leading next-generation bullet train, the Fuxing brings an all-new experience that has been enhanced in speed, safety, and comfort. It is also the first bullet train entirely designed and manufactured in China with full intellectual property rights, including overall design and key technologies related to the body, steering frame, traction, braking and network.
Zhongwang Group, a leader in the global aluminium industry, was a key aluminium alloy supplier for the Fuxing. The company provided dozens of deep processed aluminium alloys for use in the bullet train. The aluminium materials used on a bullet train such as the Fuxing have to meet extremely high performance and operating standards. The aluminium alloy body sections manufactured by Zhongwang for the standardised EMUs had to pass exceedingly demanding third-party testing, the criteria of which were higher than those used in Europe, said Mr. Cai Hunan, Vice General Manager of Zhongwang Group.
The body of the Fuxing bullet train being assembled with extrusion products supplied by Zhongwang
Zhongwang: Key supplier of aluminium alloy sections for the body of China’s next-generation bullet train
Trains that travel at speeds of 200km/hour and above require materials that perform particularly well in terms of being lightweight, sealable and corrosion resistant. Aluminium alloy’s strength, lightweight and non-corrosive qualities, and high ductility give it clear advantages in train body applications. In fact, the bodies of almost all high-speed rail trains currently operating in China are made of aluminium.
Industry experts say high-speed trains that travel at speeds of over 300km/hour must use lightweight aluminium alloy for the body, and those traveling at speeds of over 350km/hour must use aluminium for the entire train compartment except for the chassis.
Due to Zhongwang Group’s tremendous technological innovations in aluminium materials manufacturing and deep parts processing, the company is the largest supplier of aluminium parts for the Fuxing bullet train, beating out other vendors.
A number of technical issues were addressed in this project, such as the aluminium alloy sections used on the Fuxing are at least 100mm wider than those on the Hexie CRH380 series of high-speed trains, and some of the sections are 5mm-20mm taller, making the extrusion of whole sections much more difficult. However, the engineers at Zhongwang Group were able to deliver deep processed parts and aluminium alloy sections for the body of the Fuxing on schedule and meet all relevant technical requirements. Zhongwang Group worked together with China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) to overcome some technical challenges related to one-piece extrusion solution in the Fuxing. One-piece extrusion solution refers to extruding the ultra-large sections needed in the body of high-speed trains at one time using Zhongwang’s exclusive ultra-large 225MN extrusion presses. These are the largest and most advanced of such presses in the world. The process eliminates the need to weld two smaller sections together, thus further enhancing the safety of the train.
China Zhongwang’s two ultra-large 225MN extrusion presses, which are the largest and most advanced such presses in the world
Zhongwang has been actively stepping up its presence in China’s EMU and subway projects in recent years. Zhongwang Group supplied aluminium alloy sections for the body of the HexieCRH380 series of high-speed trains produced by CRRC. Zhongwang also provided high-quality aluminium alloy sections for the bodies of the trains for multiple subway projects at home and abroad. In addition, Zhongwang is one of only a few domestic players capable of developing and manufacturing aluminium extrusion products for the bodies of bullet trains that travel at speeds of 300km/hour, 350km/hour and 400km/hour, and the large-section products, such as the broadplates used on the locomotive.
Next stop: Broader market outlook
China’s high-speed rail system is entering a period of rapid development. At the end of 2016, the operating mileage of China’s high-speed railway exceeded 22,000 km, accounting for over 60% of the total railway mileage around the world.
The commissioning of the bullet train Fuxing has ushered in a new era of rapid expansion for China’s high-speed rail system. The Fuxing delivers substantial improvements over its predecessor bullet train, the Hexie, including faster speed during continuous operation, longer endurance, greater comfort and safety.
Zheshang Securities estimates the market for the Fuxing at about RMB600 billion, which signifies vast opportunities in the market are yet to be explored.
The brokerage says the Fuxing bullet train represents China’s new standard for high-speed rail and the main direction of future development. It estimates that replacing the current 2,586 pairs of the Hexie bullet trains with the Fuxing trains would cost around RMB400 billion. Moreover, the“13th Five-Year Plan” decrees that the government will promote infrastructure construction, and it is expected to add 11,000 km of railway, requiring 1,320 additional pairs of Fuxing trains, for a cost of about RMB200 billion.
In overseas markets, prospects for the Fuxing are also very promising. China has made great progress in promoting its high-speed rail overseas. Under the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, progress have been made on a number of key overseas high-speed rail projects since 2015, such as the Jakarta–Bandung high-speed rail line, the China-Laos high-speed rail line, the China-Thailand high-speed rail line, and the Belgrade-Budapest high-speed rail line. China’s high-speed rail has entered markets in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa.
Being entirely self-developed and standardised, the Fuxing bullet train would be immune to intellectual property disputes, and is not subject to the rules or stipulations of other parties. This will greatly improve the international competitiveness of China’s high-speed rail products and accelerate its pace of expansion into the global market, according to industry observers.
According to Mr. He Huawu, Chief Engineer of the China Railway Corporation and an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, the China Standardized EMU will be applied in a high-speed rail project in Indonesia and the bullet train Fuxing will become the leading model of China’s high-speed rail in overseas markets.
The bright prospects and huge market space for China’s high-speed rail should drive development across the industry chain. In the past, Chinese players were not able to produce certain aluminium products such as the aluminium alloy sections used in bullet train cabins. As a result they had to rely largely on imports, which raised processing and other costs, said Mr. Lu Changqing, Executive Director and President of China Zhongwang. But now China Zhongwang and other Chinese companies are fully capable of manufacturing the high-quality aluminium extrusion products applied in high-speed rail projects. Moreover, processing costs for the aluminium alloy sections used in bullet train cabins are significantly lower while the quality has improved, making "Made in China" more competitive than ever.