New for 2025! The Most Energy-Efficient Coaster on the Planet!

Hopefully it doesn't ever get to that. But, I'm sure others have had the same thoughts. You look at a coaster like Top Thrill Dragster, and you think, "Man, what a waste of energy." Though some might feel that way about the ride experience, I'm strictly talking about the actual energy here.

With the incredible amount of electricity required to run a coaster like TTD, do you think we'll get to a point where they're simply too costly to run? While this might be a laugh with today's energy costs, I'm talking about in the future, when costs might soar when most have an electric car, etc.

So, it got me thinking. Do you think future coaster designs will start to implement more energy-saving features? For example, in TTD's case, maybe the energy lost from braking could be stored into battery packs (similar to today's hybrid/electric vehicles), which could help power the coaster or the lights at night.

Lastly, excluding the conversion to LED lighting, are there presently any coaster (or amusement ride) design features that are already saving energy?

Last edited by Jeph,
ApolloAndy's avatar

The idea of recapturing the energy from the braking on TTD was brought up a long time ago and Rideman noted that if you're recapturing the energy, any malfunction in the recapturing system and the brakes don't brake anymore (you could say they break). You could include a redundant fail safe braking system after the recapturing system, but I'm not sure how much extra capital you're talking and how much energy you're saving at that point.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

That's interesting. Like you said, I'm sure any challenges relating to a regenerative braking system could be overcome, but cost would be the ultimate factor. As energy costs increase and the technological costs continue to decrease (especially relating to lithium ion battery packs), I'm sure future designs will see these sorts of features. We'll probably even see existing coasters and rides modified with energy-saving systems.

As of now though, it appears to be unfamiliar territory in the amusement industry (as it was in the auto industry just 10 years ago or so). Though I have no facts, it'd seem that LIM and other launch-technology coasters would use significantly more power than your traditional chain-lift models. As a result, I wonder if costs would be significant enough that we'd see a return to mostly chain/cable lift models in the future...or parks full of these:

Warning: This video may disappoint, as it cuts off before the kids collide.

Last edited by Jeph,
Bakeman31092's avatar

Actually, TTD doesn't use that much more electrical energy than a large scale lift hill coaster.

If you take the two styles and assume that the trains+riders weigh the same and that the rides reach the same top speed then the amount of energy would be the same between the two. The key to the hydraulic launch coasters is that they converter electrical energy over an extended period of time (upwards of 40 seconds, I believe) to hydraulic energy, which then gets converted into kinetic energy in a much quicker amount of time (~4 seconds). So while the power difference is great because you're slowly storing energy and then quickly releasing it, the amount of actually energy is roughly the same, if you ignore efficiency losses during the energy transfer from electrical to hydraulic to kinetic.

I'd be willing to bet that TTD consumes less electricity than MF. Even though TTD reaches a 30% greater top speed, its trains are about half as massive and it stores its energy in about twice the time (~40 seconds to fill the accumulators vs. ~20 seconds for MF to reach the top of the lift).

As for LIM coasters: Yes, those do consume much more electrical energy since they directly convert it into kinetic energy in a short amount of time. Also, most coasters dissipate most of their energy by the time they reach the brakes, so there normally isn't much energy to recycle.

Last edited by Bakeman31092,
sirloindude's avatar

RideMan 2.0?

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

Jeff's avatar

Bakeman31092 said:

Actually, TTD doesn't use that much more electrical energy than a large scale lift hill coaster.

I don't think you're accounting for the amount of energy wasted as heat in that system.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

ApolloAndy's avatar

More importantly, this particular question is much more about how much energy is potentially wasted in hitting the brakes than how much was spent in the first place. Regardless of how much it took, what matters is how much you can get back.

And interestingly, I read an article today about a new technology to store energy from wind turbines and solar fields with compressed air rather than batteries.

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Green Dragon. Doesn't get much more energy saving than that...

Now you just need to place it on the side of a canyon or something

LostKause's avatar

About Green Dragon, Wow. That is a fantastic idea. The weight of the riders in one one train pull the second empty train up the lift. Cool.

Last edited by LostKause,

That is so cool. Forget 2025; the most energy-efficient coaster already exists! I'm shocked that I've never heard about this before. Here's a POV of Green Dragon:

I was also thinking about a ride like maXair. An electric motor lifts riders up. Couldn't the direction of the motor be reversed on the down swing, such that it acts as a generator and stores the energy into a battery (or into compressed air as Andy mentioned)?

Last edited by Jeph,
LostKause's avatar

Thanks for posting the video, Jeph. It works a little bit differently than I though from the description that I read.

And just when I had thought I had seen every roller coaster idea ever created, this shows up. Cool!

I was totally unaware. That's pretty ingenious.

Actually, the ride looks rather fun too!

Fever I really enjoy the Simpsons. It's just a shame that I am starting to LOOK like Homer.

Bakeman31092, I believe Monty Jasper mentioned at some Q&A session that Dragster may have surpassed Thunder Canyon as the top consumer of electrical power in the park. When you think about it, both rides are doing the same thing: pumping large volumes of fluid against great resistive forces. On Thunder Canyon, three pumps are each lifting a very large column of water something like ten feet. On Dragster, the pumps are pushing large volumes of oil against a very large pneumatic spring. In both cases, the pumps run continuously.

Jeph, the designers are ahead of you. A number of spectacular type rides (not sure if maXair is one of them, but it could be...) use motor controllers that make use of regenerative braking. The motor controller is designed to respond to whatever the motor is doing so that it can provide precise control. If the motor is moving too fast, the controller can apply a load so that the motor will slow down. Instead of hooking the motor to a big resistor and wasting the energy generated by the motors being driven by the ride, as happens with magnetic coaster brakes, the load is supplied by the other equipment on the power grid. This is why in a carnival, some of the big spectacular rides will operate with their lights on all the time: to guarantee that there is a load on the circuit that can absorb all the power that comes off the motor during a regenerative part of the cycle. When a failure of the regenerative braking system does not mean certain disaster for riders or equipment, that power can be recaptured!

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Last edited by RideMan,

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janfrederick's avatar

For the Green Dragon, I'm guessing the need a motor to bring up the train for the first ride of the day. Cool idea. Nice little terrain action there.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

That was very interesting to learn that rides were already making use of regenerative braking, Dave. So basically, what I'm understanding is that amusement park rides feed off a shared bank of electricity. When a ride generates power through braking, it can immediately feed it to other sources in the park, such that the energy never has to be stored in a battery, etc.

I guess what I found most surprising though was that Thunder Canyon was among CP's top consumers. I guess it never occurred to me how much energy pumps consume and how hard they're working to maintain the water flow. I've questioned on PointBuzz why they can't push the pumps harder or install additional/larger pumps to speed up the flow of Shoot the Rapids. Maybe operating cost has something to do with it?

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