The Anonymous Widower

Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Hydrogen trains will be introduced in as little as two years under ambitious plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

The trains, which are almost silent and have zero emissions, will operate at speeds of up to 90 mph and release steam only as a by-product. The new trains, which will be called “Breeze” will be employed on commuter and suburban lines by early 2021.

From the article and other published sources like Wikipedia, I can say the following.

Train Formation

The formation of some of the current Class 321 trains is as follows.

DTSO(A)+TSO+MSO+DTSO(B)

Note.

  1. The two DTSO cars are identical and are Driving Trailer Standard Open cars.
  2. The TSO car is a Trailer Standard Open car.
  3. The MSO car is a Motor Standard Open, which contains the four traction motors, the pantograph and all the electrical gubbins.

The refurbished Class 321 Renatus train has a new AC traction system.

In the past, the Trailer car has been removed from some of these trains, to make a three-car Class 320 train, which has this formation.

DTSO(A)+MSO+DTSO(B)

The Times says this about the formation of the hydrogen trains.

New images released by Alstom show that the existing four-carriage 321s will be reduced to three as part of the conversion process, which will be carried out at the company’s plant in Widnes, Cheshire. The front and rear third of the train will be used to house hydrogen gas storage tanks.

It would appear to me that Alstom have decided to go down a route based on the proven Class 320 train.

The TSO car will be removed and the existing or re-tractioned MSO car will be sandwiched between two rebuilt DTSO cars containing large hydrogen tanks and the hydrogen fuel cells to generate the electricity to power the train.

Although, Alstom’s pictures show a three-car train, I can’t see any reason, why a four-car train would not be possible, with the addition of a TSO car.

The train would obviously need to have enough power.

But then a standard Class 321 train is no wimp with a 100 mph operating speed and one MW of power, which is a power level not far short of the 1.68 MW of a modern four-car Class 387 train.

The MSO Car

You could almost consider that a Class 321 train is an MSO car, with a Driving Trailer car on either side and an extra Trailer car to make a four-car train.

In an original Class 321 train, the MSO car has the following.

  • Two motored bogies, each with two traction motors.
  • A pantograph on the roof to pick up the 25 KVAC overhead power.
  • A transformer and the other electrical gubbins.

This picture shows the side view of an MSO car in an unmodified Class 321 train.

It does appear to be rather full under the MSO car, but I suspect, that modern AC equipment will take up less space. Although, the air-conditioning will have to be squeezed in.

Some if not all cars are labelled as PMSO, to indicate they have the train’s pantograph.

British Rail designed a lot of Mark 3 coach-based Electric Multiple Units like this, with a power car in the middle and trailer cars on either side. For instance, the legendary Class 442 train, is of five cars, with all the traction motors and electrical gear in the middle car. It still holds the speed record for third-rail-powered trains. British Rail certainly got the dynamics right.

The upgraded Class 321 Renatus trains have a new AC traction system.

  • This will be state-of-the-art, more efficient and probably more reliable.
  • New traction motors handle regenerative braking.

But is it more powerful than the original system?

If it was, it would give better acceleration.

This modern traction system will probably be a starting point for the electrical system of a hydrogen-powered Class 321 train.

It would have to be able to accept electrical power from the following sources.

  • The pantograph, when connected to the 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The two Driving Trailer Standard Open cars with their hydrogen tanks and fuel-cells..

The voltages will probably be different, but this should not be a problem for a modern well-designed electrical system.

Batteries And Regenerative Braking

The Times has a graphic, which shows a part-cutaway of the train.

There is an arrow and explanation labelled Traction System, where this is said.

Ensures appropriate energy is transmitted between fuel cell and battery. Drives wheels and collects energy during braking.

I would suspect that a single battery would be placed in the MSO car, so that the battery could be close to the traction motors under the car.

Battery Size Calculation

The battery should be big enough to handle the energy generated when braking from the train’s maximum speed.

Obviously, Alstom have not disclosed the weight of the train, but a three-car Class 320 train, which is a Class 321 train without the trailer car,  weighs 114.5 tonnes and has 213 seats. So I suspect that because of the hydrogen tanks, there will be about 140 seats in the hydrogen-powered train. So could it hold 300 passengers with the addition of standees?

I don’t know how much a hydrogen tank weighs, but I suspect it is more bulky than heavy.

Fuel cells of the required size, seem to weigh in the order of hundreds of kilograms rather than tonnes.

So I think I will assume the following for my kinetic energy calculation.

  • A 200 tonne train
  • 300 passengers at 90 Kg each with baggage, bikes and buggies.
  • A speed of 87 mph.

This gives a 227 tonne train, when fully loaded.

Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator gives a kinetic energy of just under 50 kWh.

So this amount of energy will be needed to accelerate the train to the operating speed and could be substantially recovered at a station stop from the operating speed.

As the train will also need hotel power for doors, air-conditioning and other train systems, a battery of perhaps around 100 kWh would give enough power.

Obviously, Alstom will have done a complete computer simulation, they will have much better and more accurate figures.

As 50 kWh traction batteries are of the size of a large suitcase, I doubt there would be a problem putting enough battery capacity in the MSO car.

Obviously, these are very rough calculations, but it does appear that with modern lightweight tanks, hydrogen trains are feasible, with readily-available components.

But then Alstom have already converted a Coradia Lint to hydrogen power.

Will The Train Be A Series Hybrid?

In a series hybrid, like a New Routemaster bus, the vehicle is driven by an electric motor, powered by a battery, which in the case of the bus is charged by a small diesel engine. Braking energy is also recycled to the battery.

In Alstom’s Breeze train, the traction motors in the MSO car would be connected to the battery.

When the power in the battery is low, the train’s computer will top up the battery from the overhead electrification, if it is available or use the hydrogen fuel cells.

I suspect the computer would always leave enough spare capacity in the battery to accommodate the energy generated during braking.

Passenger Capacity and Range

I have estimated that the passenger capacity of the train is around three hundred.

This picture from Alstom, shows a side view of one DTSO car of the train.

The windows, probably denote the size of the passenger compartment. So instead of having the capacity of a three-car train, it probably only carries that of a two-car train.

Compare this visualisation with a picture of an unmodified DTSO car.

There’s certainly a lot of space under the DTSO car, which I’m sure Alstom will use creatively. Can the fuel cells fit underneath?

From the cutaway view of the proposed train in The Times, it would appear that the section behind the driving compartment is occupied by the hydrogen tank.

The hydrogen fuel cells or at least their vents are on the roof at the back end of the car.

The Times gives the range of the train as in excess of 625 miles.

To put this into context, the Tyne Valley Line has a length of sixty miles, so a train could do at least five round trips between Newcastle and Carlisle without refuelling.

It’s certainly no short-range trundler!

I deduce from the extreme range quoted by The Times, that Alstom’s Breeze is an extremely efficient train and probably a series hybrid.

If the train is very efficient, that could mean, that there is the possibility to use smaller tanks to increase the train’s passenger capacity to fit a particular route better.

Use Of The Pantograph

All the articles published today don’t say anything about the pantograph.

But I can’t see any reason, why when 25 KVAC overhead electrification exists, it couldn’t be used.

Being able to use available electrification is also a great help in positioning trains before and after, trains  perform their daily schedule.

750 VDC Operation

British Rail did get a lot of things right and one was that nearly all of their electrical multiple units could work or be modified to work on both forms of electrification in the UK; 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail.

So I believe that a 750 VDC version of Alstom’s Breeze will be possible.

A Replacement For A Two-Car Diesel Multiple Unit

There are large numbers of two-car diesel multiple units in the UK.

All would appear to have a similar passenger capacity to Alstom’s Breeze.

Some though will be converted into more efficient diesel-battery hybrids.

But there will still be a sizeable number of replacements, where the Breeze will be suitable.

The Breeze will have a major advantage, if as I expect, it has the ability to run using 25 KVAC or 750 VDC electrification.

It will be able to work routes that are partially electrified.

Possible Routes

The Times says this about possible routes.

Although the company refused to be drawn on the destination of the new trains, it is believed that they could be used on unelectrified lines in the north-west or north-east.

It is worth looking at the location of Alstom’s factory in Widnes, where the Class 321 trains will be converted. This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The main railway between Liverpool and Crewe running across the top of the map and then crossing the River Mersey to go South.
  2. The Alstom factory is shown by a red arrow in the North-West corner of the map.

Not shown on the map, as it is just to the South on the South Bank of the Mersey, is INEOS’s massive Castner-Kellner works, which is a major producer of hydrogen, as it was when I worked there in the late 1960s.

I doubt that Alstom will be short of hydrogen to test the new trains.

Alstom and INEOS could even build a pipeline across the Mersey.

The Liverpool and Crewe Line is electrified and recently, the Halton Curve has been upgraded to form a new route between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The Wikipedia entry for the Halton Curve has a section called Hydrogen Fuel Cell Train Trials, where this is said.

The Chester to Liverpool line via the Halton Curve is proposed for a trial by Alstom of their zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell trains. The line was chosen as Alstom’s new technology facility is at Halebank on the Liverpool border adjacent to the line, with hydrogen supplied via the nearby Stanlow refinery.

I should say, that I personally prefer the INEOS route for hydrogen, where it is a by-product of the electrolysis of brine, which is mainly to produce chlorine. Even in the 1960s, ICI performed a lot of production at night to take advantage of more affordable electricity.

The other route that goes close to Alstom’s factory is the Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester route via Warrington.

Increasing Capacity

I believe that effectively two-car trains with a capacity of 300 passengers,running between say the cities of Liverpool and Chester would not be large enough.

The current Class 321 trains are four-car trains and the conversion to Alstom’s Breeze trains, will result in the removal of the Trailer car, which contains the toilet.

The power of the MSO car in the current Class 321 trains is 1,000 kW.

During the conversion for use in Alstom’s Breeze trains, the power system will be updated.

  • Four new AC traction motors will be fitted.
  • A battery to store electricity and handle regenerative braking will be fitted. I estimated earlier, that this could be at least 100 kWh.
  • The ability to connect to the hydrogen fuel cells in the two updated Driving Trailer Standard Open cars will be fitted.

I also suspect a well-designed computer control system will be added.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I believe that the updated MSO car can be designed to deliver any amount of power between say 1,000 kW and 1,600 kW.

Alstom will obviously know, how much power will be needed to accelerate their proposed three-car train to the operating speed of 87 mph.

Four-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

Suppose though that the trailer car was also updated and added to the train.

  • The weight would rise to 223 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 450.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 55 kWh.

Provided the MSO car is powerful enough, a four-car Alstom Breeze would appear to be feasible.

Five-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

What would the sums look like for a five-car Alstom Breeze.

  • Two trailer cars would be added.
  • The weight would rise to 246 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 600.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 63 kWh.

With the priviso of the power of the MSO car, it certainly looks like a five-car Alstom Breeze could be feasible.

It looks like at least three different sizes of train are possible.

  • Three-car – 300 passengers
  • Four-car – 450 passengers
  • Five-car – 600 passengers

Only three different types of car will be needed.

  • Driving Trailer Standard Open – DTSO – With hydrogen tanks and hydrogen fuel cells and less seating than in the current trains.
  • Motor Standard Open – MSO – With new AC power system and a battery.
  • Trailer Standard Open – TSO – With seats and possibly a Universal Access Toilet, bike racks or a buffet.

Note.

  1. All DTSO would be more-or-less identical, but some might have larger tanks and more fuel-cells.
  2. All MSO cars would be identical.
  3. TSO cars would be specified by the customer and could be tailored to a particular route.

The train’s computer, would automatically determine what train had been assembled and adjust power settings and displays accordingly.

Suppose four Class 321 trains were to be converted to Alstom Breezes.

You could end up with.

  • Four three-car trains.
  • Four spare Trailer Standard Open cars.

Or.

  • Four four-car trains.

Or.

  • Two three-car trains.
  • Two five-car trains

The permutations are endless.

It is an infinitely flexible system, which can produce trains of a variety of lengths.

I would suspect that Eversholt will want customers to take complete trains, to maximise their returns and not end up with too many orphaned trailer cars.

Are There Any Spare Trailer Cars?

I ask this question, as in the last few years, twelve four-car Class 321 trains, have been converted to three-car Class 320 trains. As part of this process the trailer car is removed.

I would assume the twelve trailer cars have been put into store.

Could they be used to create five-car Alstom Breeze trains?

Will Alstom Breeze Trains Work In Multiple?

Class 321 trains can do this and I suspect that the Alstom Breezes will have the capability.

But it will probably be mainly for train recovery, than general operation.

Although, running two shorter trains as a longer one, is always useful, when there is a large sporting or other event happening.

Manufacturing

Alstom’s design eases the conversion.

Each type of car has its own manufacturing process,

Driving Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all DTSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The driving compartment is updated.
  • The hydrogen tank is added behind the driving compartment.
  • The hydrogen fuel cells are added, with vents on the roof.
  • The new interior with seats is fitted behind the hydrogen tank and fuel cells.
  • No work would need to be done to the bogies, except that needed for maintenance.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All DTSO cars would be treated in the same manner, although some might have smaller hydrogen tanks and detailed differences due to customer preferences and route needs.

Motor Standard Open

This would need to be done to all MSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The electrical equipment is replaced with the new AC system with a battery.
  • The bogies would be fitted with the new AC traction motors.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All MSO cars would probably be treated in the same manner.

Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all TSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All TSO cars would probably be treated in a similar manner, but the interior fitment would depend on the customer’s requirements.

This picture shows a side view of an unmodified TSO car.

There is certainly a lot of space underneath the car.

I wonder if Alstom have any plans for using this space?

Summing Up Manufacturing

The process for the three types of cars is very similar and is very typical of the work regularly done to give mid-life updates to trains in the UK.

Alstom’s Widnes factory has already performed a major upgrade to Virgin Trains’ Pendelinos and I doubt that the work will hold many terrors for the factory, if the design phase is good.

Train Testing

So many train projects have been let down recently, by the lack of suitable test facilities and poorly-planned testing.

The Halton Curve route between Liverpool and Chester would appear to be an ideal route to test the trains.

  • Liverpool Lime Street station has recently been upgraded in size.
  • Chester station is not busy.
  • The route is about forty miles long.
  • I estimate that trains will take about forty minutes
  • The route passes Alstom’s factory in Widnes.
  • The route is about half-electrified, between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn.
  • Access is good to the North Wales Main Line for long range testing.

Running on both electrification and hydrogen can be tested with a changeover at Runcorn station.

A Liverpool to Chester service would go through the following sequence.

  • Arrive at Runcorn station, after running from Liverpool using existing 25 KVAC electrification.
  • Drop the pantograph.
  • Continue towards Chester on hydrogen power.

The sequence would be reversed in the opposite direction.

I don’t believe Alstom could want for a better test route.

I can only see one major problem.

Liverpudlians are a curious breed and I predict they will turn up in droves at a new attraction in their midst.

Conclusion

I very much feel that by using hydrogen tanks in the two driving cars Alstom have created a pragmatic flexible design, that will prove if hydrogen trains are a viable proposition for the UK.

Things that I particularly like.

  • The first trains being two-car DMU-sized.
  • The ability to use electrified lines.
  • The extraordinary range.
  • The performance.
  • Trains of different length and capacity can be created from three different car types.
  • The testing process.

But I have my doubts that the initial train has enough capacity.

Although I suspect that it could be increased by adding one or more trailer cars.

 

 

 

January 8, 2019 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. […] In Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead, I estimated that a three-car Alstom Breeze would have a seating capacity of around 140 seats, with the ability to perhaps take an additional 160 standees. […]

    Pingback by Comparing A Class 769 Train With An Alstom Breeze « The Anonymous Widower | January 13, 2019 | Reply

  2. Alstom’s Head of Business Development is a speaker at an event in Liverpool on Wednesday ‘How the Northwest Can Lead the Hydrogen Revolution in Europe’ – should you happen to have £75 to spare http://www.nwhydrogenalliance.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Flyer-Liverpool-Hydrogen-April-2019.pdf

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 8, 2019 | Reply

  3. […] In Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead, I estimated that a three-car Alstom Breeze would have a seating capacity of around 140 seats, with the ability to perhaps take an additional 160 standees. […]

    Pingback by Breeze Hydrogen Multiple-Unit Order Expected Soon « The Anonymous Widower | May 16, 2019 | Reply


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