The Anonymous Widower

Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains?

This may seem to be a ridiculous idea, as why would the Class 378 trains on the London Overground need the ability to use battery power?

But I have just read this article in Rail Technology Magazine entitled Bombardier enters key analysis phase of IPEMU and it is a detailed article on everything Bombardier are doing to convert the prototype IPEMU into a real train, that can be sold to demanding customers.

  • Four different types of battery are being evaluated in Mannheim.
  • A simulated five-year test is being performed.
  • Bombardier are taking a serious look at the branch-line market.
  • Bombardier are evaluating the retrofit market with particular reference to the Class 387 and Class 378 trains.

This is all very sound stuff and in some ways it makes a change to fully-develop the product before launch rather than expect train operators and passengers to find the problems.

One thing that is surprising, is that Class 378 trains are being looked at for the retrofit of on-board energy storage. Marc Phillips of Bombardier is quoted as saying this in the article.

All Electrostars to some degree can be retrofitted with batteries. We are talking the newer generation EMU as well as the older generation. So, the 387s and 378s are the ones where we have re-gen braking where we can top-up the batteries and use the braking energy to charge the batteries. That gives us the best cost-benefit over operational life.

So it would seem that the Class 378 trains of the London Overground are candidates for fitting with batteries. As the trains handle their routes with ease and there doesn’t appear to be any lines without electrification, where anybody has speculated they might run, the only reason to fit them with batteries would be to capture and reuse all that braking energy.

It is an interesting proposition where the decision to fit batteries will depend totally on the accountants.

Obviously, there will be a cost to fit batteries, but as they wouldn’t need to propel the train for large distances, where there is no electrification, the specification could be quite relaxed.

  • The capacity would have to be sufficient to hold the maximum braking energy of a full train.
  • The battery technology would have to be able to handle the demanding stop/start regime of London Overground services.
  • The system must be easy to fit to the existing trains.
  • The battery capacity should probably be sufficient to move a stalled train into the nearest station.

A worst case scenario for moving a stalled train, would be hauling a train out of the Thames Tunnel after a failure of the power to the third-rail.

I have a feeling that traditional battery storage is not the best way to handle this application, as it is one that could be met by a larger version of the KERS system used in Formula One. KERS has already been applied successfully to buses, and I wrote about that in Could IPEMU Trains Use KERS?

You can do a simple calculation, which gives the kinetic energy of a hundred and sixty tonnes Class 378 moving at twenty metres per second, which is about two thirds of maximum speed and probably a typical service speed. The kinetic energy of such a train is 3.2 Mega Joules or 0.89 kWh. As an aside, I pay 10.73p for each kWh.

If a train has regenerative braking as Class 378 trains do, this energy can be returned through the overhead wires or third rail and used by other trains on the rail network, if the lines are setup to receive the energy. But it relies on another train being able to pick up the electricity and there are inevitable loses in the complicated transfer of the electricity.

On the other hand, if the train has on-board energy storage, it can store the energy and use it when it starts again at the station. This is a more efficient process.

It should also be noted that over the last year, all fifty-seven four car Class 378 trains have been upgraded to five cars. Does the fifth car have the wiring to incorporate an energy storage device? I would be surprised if it didn’t and that the train software is now capable of being upgraded to incorporate on-board energy storage.

I have no idea how much electricity would be saved by regenerative braking on the London Overground, but various applications of regenerative braking technology talk of electricity savings of between ten and twenty percent.

I think it is only a matter of time before the technology is proven to be sufficiently reliable and the numbers add up correctly for the Class 378 trains to be fitted with on-board energy storage.

March 7, 2016 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. […] One thing that is surprising, is that Class 378 trains are being looked at for the retrofit of onboard energy storage.  I cover this in detail in Will London Overground Fit On-Board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains? […]

    Pingback by All Quiet On The IPEMU Front « The Anonymous Widower | March 8, 2016 | Reply

  2. […] I wrote Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains? in March, I didn’t look very hard at Southern’s collection of over two hundred Class […]

    Pingback by Will Southern Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 377 Trains? « The Anonymous Widower | April 3, 2016 | Reply

  3. […] in Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains?, I asked the question of the title after finding an article, where Bombardier stated that Class 378 […]

    Pingback by Slow Progress On The Gospel Oak To Barking Line « The Anonymous Widower | September 4, 2016 | Reply

  4. […] March 2016, I wrote Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains?, which was based on this article in Rail Technology Magazine entitled Bombardier enters key […]

    Pingback by Bi-Mode Ate My Electrification « The Anonymous Widower | December 23, 2016 | Reply

  5. […] In Will London Overground Fit On-board Energy Storage To Class 378 Trains?, I mused about this statement, after reading this article in Rail Technology Magazine entitled Bombardier enters key analysis phase of IPEMU. Marc Phillips of Bombardier is quoted as saying this in the article. […]

    Pingback by What Is Happening To The Greenford Branch? « The Anonymous Widower | August 10, 2017 | Reply


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