The Anonymous Widower

GE To Partner BNSF On Battery Freight Locomotive Tests

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Rail Engineer.

The article includes this image.

I think that there are some mixed up captions on the image.

It talks about Massive Power Generation Capabilities up to 2400 kWhrs.

kWhrs are a unit of total energy and could refer to the battery storage capability of the locomotive.

If you look at our much smaller ubiquitous UK diesel freight locomotive, the Class 66, this has a power output of 2,460 kW.

If the GE locomotive, which is experimental had a battery of 2400 kWh, then it could supply 2400 kW for an hour.

But the concept seems sound, where the battery electric locomotive would be paired with a diesel locomotive to haul a freight train. Fuel savings of ten percent are expected.

A Diesel/Electric/Battery Hybrid Locomotive For The UK

I could see a practical diesel/electric/battery locomotive being developed for the UK.

A Class 66 Replacement

Over four hundred of the these locomotives were built and they are currently used by these operators  in the UK.

Which adds up to a surprisingly precise four hundred locomotives.

  • They have a power output of 2,460 kW – Call it 2500 kW for ease of calculation.
  • They have a top speed of 75 mph, although some can only manage 65 mph.
  • They weigh 68 tonnes.
  • They are noisy, smelly and don’t meet the latest EU pollution regulations.
  • Class 66 drivers, I’ve spoken to, are not keen on the working environment.

But they do various jobs for their operators competently and are not the most expensive of locomotives.

There are also other modern similar-sized diesel locomotives like the thirty Class 67 and thirty-seven Class 70, but these are not as unfriendly, to the environment and staff.

Many of the Class 66 locomotives pull heavy freight trains on routes that are fully or partly electrified like the East Coast Main Line, West Coast Main Line, Great Western Main Line, Midland Main Line and Great Eastern Main Line. The services are diesel-hauled because at the ends of the route, they need to use diesel power.

A specification for a locomotive to replace the long-haul Class 66 locomotives for working fully or partly-electrified routes could be something like.

  • Power on electrification of upwards of 3000 kW.
  • Ability to move a heavy freight train in and out freight terminals to and from electrification.
  • Ability to do a small amount of shunting.
  • Sufficient diesel or battery power to handle the train, away from electrification.
  • Ability to switch between electric and diesel/battery power at line speed.

I’ve heard from those who work at the Port of Felixstowe, that port operators wouldn’t electrify the port, for both cost and Health and Safety reasons.

The Felixstowe Problem

The Port of Felixstowe is at the end of the twelve mile long Felixstowe Branch Line, which is not electrified.

Trains seem to be allocated up to just over an hour for the journey between the Great Eastern Main Line and the Port.

This would mean that any proposed locomotive must be capable of handling a branch line to a port or freight depot remote from the electrified network.

Similar problems exist at other ports and freight depots including Hull, Immingham, Liverpool, Southampton, Tilbury and Teesport.

The Southampton Problem

If anything, the Port of Southampton has the worst problem, in that it only has access to the third-rail electrification South of the Thames, until freight trains reach Reading, where there is 25 KVAC overhead electrification. It looks like that trains take about ninety minutes between the Port of Southampton and Reading.

Even, if a powerful dual-voltage locomotive were to be available, I doubt that the power supply to the electrification could provide enough power.

The proposed solution to the Southampton problem was the Electric Spine, which would have linked the port to Northern and Central England with a 25 KVAC overhead electrified route.

It has now been largely cancelled.

An alternative would be a locomotive, that could pull a heavy freight train between the Port of Southampton and Reading in an environmentally-friendly way.

One point to note is that a Class 92 locomotive is rated at 4000 kW on 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Thoughts On A Battery Locomotive

Suppose an operator needed a battery locomotive to go between Southampton and Cardiff, that would be a straight replacement for a Class 66 locomotive.

The proposed battery locomotive  would need to be able to supply the 2500 kW of the Class 66 locomotive for two hours to handle the route between Reading and Southampton.

So it would need a battery capacity of around 5000 kWh, which is twice the size of the American test locomotive. A battery this size would probably weigh around fifty tonnes.

I am probably being conservative here, as regenerative braking would probably reduce the amount of energy needed to move the train.

The electro-diesel Class 88 locomotive would probably weigh around eighty tonnes without the diesel engine. So would it be possible to design an electric locomotive incorporating a 5000 kWh battery, with a weight of perhaps one hundred and thirty tonnes.

  • It would be about the weight of a Class 70 locomotive.
  • It would probably need to be a Co-Co locomotive, to reduce the axle-loading, to that of a Class 70 locomotive.
  • It might need to be longer than other comparable locomotives to have enough space for the battery.
  • The battery would handle the energy generated by the regenerative braking.
  • It could have the 4000 kW power of a Class 88  locomotive.
  • It should probably be designed with a 100 mph top speed and the ability to haul passenger trains
  • It would be able to use both 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

If it is not possible now, as battery energy densities improve, it will be in a few years time.

Other countries other than the UK need a locomotive with a similar specification and I am certain at least one manufacturer in Europe will build a locomotive to this or a similar specification.

A Battery/Electric Locomotive And Felixstowe

Handling the Felixstowe Branch Line would entail the following.

  • The locomotive must enter the branch with a battery containing enough energy for the sixty minute run to the Port.
  • As the locomotive would probably have hauled a train from London or Haughley Junction using the existing electrification, a full enough battery probably wouldn’t be difficult.
  • In the Port, there could be a charging station for the locomotive, where they would connect to a short length of 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • On leaving the Port, the locomotive would start with a full battery, which would be enough power to reach the Great Eastern Main Line.
  • Trains going South to London would run on electrification as far as they could and would arrive in London with a full battery.
  • Trains going West to Peterborough, would hopefully be able to top up their battery between Ipswich and Haughley Junction, where they would enter the section without electrification to Peterborough, which takes between two and two-and-a half hours.

It should be noted that, freight trains often wait at Ely in a passing loop alongside the station, to keep out of the way of passenger trains. As Ely is electrified with 25 KVAC, this loop could be electrified, so that locomotives could sneak a top-up during the wait.

I am fairly certain, that a 4000 kW electric locomotive fitted with a 5000 kWh battery could handle all freight services to and from the Port of Felixstowe, at least as far as London and Peterborough.

A Battery/Electric Locomotive Between Peterborough And Nuneaton

How would a battery/electric locomotive handle this important route between Felixstowe and the Midlands and North?

Currently freight trains between Peterborough and Nuneaton have a timing on the section without electrification between Werrington Junction and Nuneaton of a few minutes under two hours.

This should be possible, given the battery range and power of the locomotive.

It would also mean that the battery/electric locomotive could haul a train between the West Coast Main Line and Felixstowe.

A Battery/Electric Locomotive And Southampton

Trains hauled by a battery/electric locomotive on this route, could probably take advantage of the third-rail electrification to top-up the battery as required, which would make it very likely that a 4000 kW electric locomotive fitted with a 5000 kWh battery could handle the route with ease.

A Battery/Electric Locomotive Between ReadingAnd The Midlands And The North

From Reading routes to Bristol, Cardiff and London are fairly easy, but the problems start, if trains need to go to Oxford, Birmingham or the Midlands and the North.

This is where the Electric Spine would have been useful

I have traced some trains from Southampton to the Midlands and the North.

  • Southampton to Birch Coppice – There is a three hour section without electrification from Didcot to Birch Coppice.
  • Southampton to Birmingham Freightliner Terminal – There is a two-and-a half hour section without electrification from Didcot to the terminal.
  • Southampton to Castle Bromwich Jagiuar – There is a two-and-a-half-hour section without electrification from Didcot to Castle Bromwich Jaguar.
  • Southampton to Liverpool – There is a two hour section without electrification from Didcot to Coventry.

All of these services are routed through Didcot, Oxford and Banbury. Extending the planned electrification between Didcot and Oxford to Banbury would probably reduce the amount of time on battery power by around thirty minutes.

TransPennine Passenger Services

TransPennine Express will soon be running services between Liverpool Lime Street and Newcastle using rakes of Mark 5 coaches, that will be hauled by a Class 68 diesel locomotive, which has a power of 2800 kW and a maximum speed of 100 mph.

On the TransPennine route, the current service takes seventy-one minutes between the electrified stations of Manchester Victoria and York.

The proposed battery/electric locomotive could handle this with ease to provide a flagship electrically-hauled service across the Pennines without any difficult electrification.

The locomotive would be charged on the current electrification between Liverpool and Manchester Victoria and along the East Coast Main Line.

Chiltern Main Line Passenger Services

Chiltern Main Line passenger services between London Marylebone and Birmingham, are another route, where a rake of coaches are hauled by a Class 68 locomotive.

The problem is that there is no electrification on this route and although a charging station could be provided at Marylebone and Moor Street, it is questionable, if enough power could be taken on during turnround.

But I said earlier, that to ease the passage of freight from Soiuthampton to the Midlands, that Didcot to Banbury should be electrified.

So could this electrification be continued all the way to Birmingham?

This would mean that the battery/electric locomotives would only need to be able to handle the hour-long journey to and from Marylebone, which would have 25 KVAC electrication over the platforms to top up the battery.

The solution is not as easy as TransPennine, but Chiltern Main Line to Birmingham would become an electric service.

The Stadler Class 88 Battery/Electric Locomotive

As Stadler seem to have a monopoly of new locomotives in the UK at present, I will look at their proven Class 88 locomotive.

  • It has a power of 4,000 kW on electricity.
  • It has a power of 700 kW using an onboard diesel.
  • It has a top speed of 100 mph.
  • The Caterpillar C27 diesel engine weighs around seven tonnes.
  • The locomotive has regenerative braking.

The locomotive is certainly no weakling on electricity, although performance, when pulling a heavy freight train on diesel might be desired to be better. This article on Rail Magazine is entitled Inside Direct Rail Services. This is an extract about the pulling ability of the Class 88 locomotive.

Sample performances over the northern section of the West Coast Main Line (Preston –Carlisle–Mossend) demonstrate that Class 88 can operate the same train weight to the same schedule as Class 68 using 15% less energy. Alternatively, it offers a 45-minute time advantage over a ‘68’ and 80 minutes for Class 66. This gives a competitive edge because a significant proportion of movement costs are absorbed by fuel.

When hauling the maximum permitted load of 1,536 tonnes on the 1 in 75 banks on this route, Class 88 has a balancing speed of 34mph in electric mode or 5mph in diesel mode. Taken together, all these factors helped Class 88 win the Rail Freight Group ‘Rail Freight Project of the Year’ Award in the Innovation and Technical Development category this year.

The locomotive doesn’t appear to be a wimp.

But could the Class 88 locomotive be fitted with a battery?

Current energy storage technology seems to be able to store about 100Wh/kg. So on this basis a seven tonne battery would store about 700 kWh.

I think in a few years it would be possible to build a version of a Class 88 locomotive with no diesel engine and a battery with a 1000 kWh capacity.

But even so, the 1000 kWh battery may be too small.

Would it be able to handle these important routes with a full-length freight train?

  • Haughley Junction to Peterborough
  • Peterborough to Doncaster via Lincoln
  • Peterborough to Nuneaton.
  • Southampton to Reading
  • Immingham to Doncaster

However, Stadler and Direct Rail Services will be able to extensively model the performance of a battery/electric Class 88 locomotive pulling various weights of freight train on different routes in the UK.

The modelling would show how much battery capacity would be needed for various routes.

Suppose though the battery capacity needed was say 2400 kWh, as I suspect has been specified by the Americans for their locomotive. This would be too heavy and large for the small Class 88 locomotive

But just as the Americans are using their battery/electric locomotive in combination with a diesel locomotive, why not run the battery-electric Class 88 locomotive as a pair with a standard electro-diesel Class 88 locomotive?

TransPennine Passenger Services With A Class 88 Battery/Electric Locomotive

Currently electrification is planned or very likely on the Liverpool to Newcastle route between.

  • Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge
  • Leeds and Colton Junction on the East Coast Main Line.

This would mean that only around forty minutes of the entire Liverpool to Newcastle route would be without electrification.

Would a battery/electric locomotive with a 1000 kWh battery be able to bridge the gap in the wires between Stalybridge and Leeds?

The battery would be fully charged, at both Stalybridge and Leeds, as the locomotive would have been running under the wires for some time.

It is a very interesting and in my view, a totally feasible possibility.

Conclusion

My modelling experience says that there is at least one solution in there.

  • A new build battery/electric locomotive could be designed.
  • A battery/electric version of the Class 88 locomotive must be possible and it could work alone or with the current electro-diesel Class 88 locomotive.

I am sure that Jo Johnson’s dream of removing diesel from UK railways will take a big step forward in the next decade, when a battery/electric locomotive with sufficient performance becomes available.

I also believe that short lengths of electrification like Oxford to Banbury, may usefully increase the range of an electric/battery locomotive.

 

October 22, 2018 - Posted by | Travel | , , ,

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