The Anonymous Widower

Charging Battery Trains

In Sparking A Revolution, I talked about Hitachi’s plans to develop battery versions of their Class 800 trains.

The article also gives the specification of a Hitachi battery train.

  • Range – 55-65 miles
  • Performance – 90-100 mph
  • Recharge – 10 minutes when static
  • Routes – Suburban near electrified lines
  • Battery Life – 8-10 years

These figures are credited to Hitachi.

Methods Of Charging

I can envisage two main methods of changing battery trains.

  • Static charging in a station, depot or siding.
  • Dynamic charging, whilst the train is on the move.

I am not covering other possible methods like battery swapping in this post.

Static Charging

Hitachi only mention static charging in their specification and they give a charge time of ten minutes.

This is a very convenient time, when you consider quite a few trains take around 10-15 minutes to turn round at a terminus.

Two companies have stated that they have products that can charge battery trains in around this time.

  • Vivarail offers a system based on well-proven third-rail electrification technology.
  • Furrer and Frey offers a system based on overhead electrification technology.

I suspect that other companies are developing systems.

Dynamic Charging

With dynamic charging, the batteries are charged as the trains run along standard electrified routes.

In the UK, this means one of two systems.

  • 750 VDC third rail electrification
  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification

Both systems can be used to charge the batteries.

Note that in the BEMU Trial in 2015, the Class 379 train used for the trial charged the batteries from the 25 KVAC overhead electrification.

A Mixture Of Dynamic And Static Charging

Many routes will be handled by a mixture of both methods.

As an example London Paddington and Cheltenham is electrified except for the 42 miles between Swindon and Cheltenham.

A round trip between London Paddington and Cheltenham could be handled as follows.

  • London Paddington to Swindon using electrification – Dynamic charging battery at the same time!
  • Swindon to Cheltenham using battery power
  • Turnround at Cheltenham – Static charging battery at the same time!
  • Cheltenham to Swindon using battery power
  • Swindon to London Paddington using electrification

Note the following.

  1. Two legs of the round-trip are run using electrification power.
  2. Two legs of the round-trip are run using battery power.
  3. There is one dynamic charge and one static charge of the batteries.

No diesel power would be used on the journey and I suspect journey times would be identical to the current timetable.

I suspect that many routes run by battery electric trains will employ a mixture of both dynamic and static charging.

Here’s a few examples.

  • London Kings Cross and Lincoln
  • London Kings Cross and Harrogate
  • London St Pancras and Melton Mowbray
  • London Euston and Chester
  • London Paddington and Bedwyn

There are probably many more.

Intermediate Charging On A Long Route

South Western Railway has a fleet that is nearly all-electric.

But they do have forty diesel trains, which are mainly used for services between London Waterloo and Exeter.

These don’t fit with any decarbonising strategy.

There is also the problem that the route between London Waterloo and Exeter, is only electrified as far as Basingstoke, leaving a long 124 miles of route without electrification.

This means that a battery train needs to charge the batteries at least twice en route.

Charging At A Longer Stop

The obvious approach to providing en route charging would be to perform a ten minute stop, where the batteries are fast charged.

Looking at Real Time Trains, the stop at Salisbury is often five minutes or more, as trains can join and split and change crews at the station.

But two stops like this could slow the train by fifteen minutes or so.

Charging At A An Electrification Island

On the section of the route, West of Salisbury, there are a series of fairly close-together stations.

  • Tisbury – 7 miles
  • Gillingham – 16 miles
  • Templecombe – 18 miles
  • Sherborne – 23 miles
  • Yeovil Junction – 39 miles
  • Crewkerne – 48 miles
  • Axminster – 61 miles

Note,

The distances are from Salisbury.

  1. Much of this nearly ninety mile section of the West of England Line between Salisbury and Exeter is single track.
  2. The Heart of Wessex Line between Westbury and Weymouth crosses at Yeovil Junction.
  3. There are three sections of double track and four passing loops.
  4. There is a passing loop at Axminster.

It strikes me that the optimal way of charging battery trains on this secondary route might be to electrify both the West of England and Heart of Wessex Lines around Yeovil Junction station.

The power for the electrification island, could come from local renewable sources, as proposed by Riding Sunbeams.

Distances from Yeovil Junction station are.

  • Bath Spa – 50 miles
  • Castle Cary – 12 miles
  • Exeter St. Davids – 49 miles
  • Salisbury – 39 miles
  • Weymouth – 30 miles

With a battery-electric train with a 55-65 mile range, as proposed in Hitachi’s draft specification, SWR’s London Waterloo and Exeter service would certainly be possible. Charging would be at Salisbury and in the Yeovil area.

On Summer Saturdays, SWR also run a London Waterloo and Weymouth service via Salisbury and Yeovil Junction. This would appear to be within the range of a battery-electric train.

As Weymouth is electrified with third-rail, I suspect that arranging charging of a battery-electric train at the station, will not be an impossible task.

The other service through the area is Great Western Railway‘s service between Gloucester and Weymouth, that runs every two hours.

It would appear that in some point in the future, it will be possible to run this service using a Hitachi battery-electric train.

Third-Rail Or Overhead?

The previous example of an electrification island would probably use 750 VDC third-rail electrification, but there is no reason, why 25 KVAC overhead electrification couldn’t be used.

Note that these trains have been talked about as possibilities for running under battery power.

  • Greater Anglia’s Class 379 trains, built by Bombardier
  • Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains, built by Stadler.
  • Merseyrail’s Class 777 trains, built by Stadler.
  • Scotrail’s Class 385 trains, built my Hitachi
  • Several companies’ Class 800 trains, built by Hitachi
  • Suthern’s Class 377 trains, built by Bombardier

All the manufacturers named have experience of both dual-voltage trains and battery operation.

I would suspect that any future battery-electric trains in the UK will be built to work on both of our electrification systems.

When talking about battery-electric trains, 750 VDC third-rail electrification may have advantages.

  • It can be easily powered by local renewable sources, as Riding Sunbeams are proposing.
  • It is compatible with Vivarail’s Fast-Charge system.
  • Connection and disconnection is totally automatic and has been since Southern Railway started using third-rail electrification.
  • Is is more affordable and less disruptive to install?
  • Third-rail electrification can be installed in visually-sensitive areas with less objections.

Developments in third-rail technology will improve safety, by only switching the power on, when a train is connected.

More Electrification Islands

These are a few examples of where an electrification island could enable a battery-electric train to decarbonise a service.

London Euston and Holyhead

In Are Hitachi Designing the Ultimate Battery Train?, I looked at running Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains between London Euston and Holyhead.

I proposed electrifying the fourteen miles between Rhyl and Llandudno Junction stations, which would leave two sections of the route between London Euston and Holyhead without electrification.

  • Rhyl and Crewe is fifty-one miles.
  • Llandudno Junction and Holyhead is forty-one miles.

Both sections should be within the battery range of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains, with their 55-65 mile range.

The following should be noted.

  • The time between arriving at Rhyl station and leaving Llandudno Junction station is nineteen minutes. This should be time enough to charge the batteries.
  • Either 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification could be used.
  • There could be arguments for third-rail, as the weather can be severe.
  • The railway is squeezed between the sea and the M55 Expressway and large numbers of caravans.

The performance of the new trains will be such, that they should be able to run between London Euston and Holyhead in a similar time. Using High Speed Two could reduce this to just under three hours.

Edinburgh And Aberdeen

I’m sure Scotland would like to electrify between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

But it would be a difficult project due to the number of bridges on the route.

Distances from Edinburgh are as follows.

  • Leuchars – 50 miles
  • Dundee – 59 miles
  • Arbroath – 76 miles
  • Montrose – 90 miles
  • Stonehaven – 114 miles
  • Aberdeen – 130 miles

A quick look at these distances indicate that Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains with a 55-65 mile range could cover the following sections.

  • Edinburgh and Dundee – 59 miles
  • Arbroath and Aberdeen – 56 miles

Would it be possible to electrify  the seventeen miles between Dundee and Arbroath?

I have just flown my helicopter along the route and observed the following.

  • Dundee station is new and appears to be cleared for overhead wires.
  • Many of the bridges in Dundee are new and likely to be cleared for overhead wires.
  • There is a level crossing at Broughty Ferry station.
  • Much of the route between Broughty Ferry and Arbroath stations is on the landward side of golf links, with numerous level crossings.
  • Between Arbroath and Montrose stations, the route appears to be running through farmland using gentle curves.
  • There is a single track bridge across the River South Esk to the South of Montrose station.
  • According to Wikipedia, the operating speed is 100 mph.

Montrose might be a better Northern end to the electrification.

  • It has a North-facing bay platform, that could be used for service recovery and for charging trains turning back to Aberdeen.
  • Montrose and Aberdeen is only forty miles.
  • It might be possible to run the service between Montrose and Inverurie, which is just 57 miles on battery power.

The problem would be electrifying the bridge.

Operationally, I can see trains running like this between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

  • Trains would leave the electrification, just to the North of Edinburgh with a full battery.
  • Battery power would be used over the Forth Bridge and through Fife and over the Tay Bridge to Dundee.
  • Electrification would take the train to Arbroath and possibly on to Montrose. The battery would also be charged on this section.
  • Battery power would take trains all the way to Aberdeen.

Trains would change between battery and electrification in Dundee and Arbroath or Montrose stations.

My one question, is would it be a good idea to electrify through Aberdeen, so that trains returning South could be charged?

I believe that four or five-car versions of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains would be able to run the route.

Glasgow And Aberdeen

This builds on the work that would be done to enable battery-electric trains go between Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

The route between Glasgow and Dundee is partially-electrified with only a forty-nine mile section between Dundee and Dunblane without wires.

I believe that four or five-car versions of Hitachi’s proposed battery-electric trains would be able to run the route.

 

To Be Continued…

 

Conclusion

I don’t think it will be a problem to provide an affordable charging infrastructure for battery trains.

I also think, that innovation is the key, as Vivarail have already shown.

February 20, 2020 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , ,

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