The Anonymous Widower

Network Rail And Vivarail Bring The Next-Generation Battery Train To COP26

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

These are the first two paragraphs.

Network Rail and Vivarail today announced that Vivarail’s next-generation battery train will be launched at COP26 and will run daily services throughout the international climate change conference.

This zero-emission train uses new batteries, developed by Vivarail, to combine maximum range with the ability to recharge quickly. The result is a train that can travel for up to 80 miles on battery power and recharge in only 10 minutes using Vivarail’s patented Fast Charge system.

That is an excellent range coupled with a fast turnround time.

How will other companies like CAF, Hitachi and Stadler respond?

If all battery-electric trains can reach this range, I don’t think we’ll need hydrogen for multiple units, but we will probably need it for freight and other locomotives.


September 29, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , ,


  1. yes, I’ve concluded too that hydrogen won’t be needed for passenger trains, especially as battery tech is improving rapidly. And Vivarail’s stock is ancient and not designed for this. Purpose-built modular trains should be able to manage much more, like the Flirt Accu. I’ve also concluded that, if the DfT starts a systematic electrification programme now for the main lines (which increases the number of places where battery trains can be recharged), and provides finance for a rolling programme of replacing aging diesel units with battery-powered ones, then there’s no technical reason why the entire rail network can’t be electrified well before the 2040 target.

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  2. Adrian Shooter of Vivarail has said in a Modern Railways interview, that modern trains like the Class 170 trains could be converted to battery-electric.

    I agree with him and suspect that the 2040 target is very conservative.

    Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  3. If a battery can run that cycle all day long for at least five years then a multitude of routes could be converted to 25kv/battery operation now. I agree that the ideal solution is a purpose built train optimised for such operations but in the short term I would just sling batteries under ten redundant 319/321 trains and get some real life operational experience going then launch a strategy to transform the network by 2040. This will need 1000’s km of 25kV still and many long distance routes will need a mix and match of OLE and battery sections which will need to be optimised around what the trains can reliable achieve.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | September 29, 2021 | Reply

    • One project that has gone quiet is Porterbrook’s project to convert the redundant Class 350 trains to battery operation.

      There are a lot of these modern 110 mph trains and with an eighty mile range, they could decarbonise a lot of routes.

      Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021 | Reply

      • I suspect the problem with Porterbrook and the other leasing companies is who will foot the bill, along with deployment guarantees. There’s no point in a leasing company spending whatever it costs to convert to batteries if nobody uses them. It’s not clear to me with the new post-franchise arrangements who is actually responsible for deciding who uses which trains. Where these decisions have been decentralised, to ScotRail, Merseyrail and Tyne&Wear, that they get going with electrification and/or battery tests. The rest of the network is waiting for the DfT to come up with an Integrated Rail Plan, a comprehensive decarbonisation strategy/plan, etc etc.

        Comment by Peter Robins | September 29, 2021

  4. All the battery trains seem to be running late like Porterbrook’s plan. The only main line trains with batteries in operation are the new-build Class 803 trains for East Coast Trains.

    But we’ve seen nothing from CAF for Northern and nothing for Uckfield and Marshlink, which are needed to unlock some rolling stock transfers.

    The Class 350 trains have cousins with third rail shoes and these would surely be ideal for Southern!

    And then there’s the 379 trains, which can be converted to battery operation.

    Someone needs to get a grip!

    Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  5. 10 minutes to recharge back to full battery.

    I wonder how the technology compares to that used on the electric ferries between Helsingor and Helsingborg? A 20 minute crossing time followed by up to 20 minute recharge time in port during the turnaround?

    Comment by chilterntrev | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  6. The charging station has a battery back, which is constantly trickle charged. It is connected to short sections of 3rd and 4th rail. The train has special high-carbon shoes which connect to the batteries on the train.

    When the train stops in the station, contact is made and it just like jump-starting one car from another. Hence the short time.

    Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  7. Would these Vivarail next-generation battery trains be able to bridge the non-electrified gaps on routes between Cambridge to Norwich and Ipswich?

    Comment by Teresa Harrold | September 29, 2021 | Reply

    • the obvious thing to do with the E Anglia services would be for Stadler to replace the diesels on their current bi-modes with batteries. They started a 3-year test programme of the German version of this in 2018, which finished earlier this year (a bit later than planned because of Covid). They were anticipating being able to run for 80km in battery mode, but found they could manage 185km – which is quite a difference, and that was in all weathers. The unit being tested covered some 15,000km in battery mode, mainly on lines N of Berlin, a landscape which is not that dissimilar to E Anglia.

      However, as the 755s have only been in use for a couple of years, this is no doubt low down on the priority list.

      I’m not sure that Vivarail’s units are suitable for very many lines in Britain.

      Comment by Peter Robins | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  8. There’s more on Vivarail’s Fast Charge in a post from earlier this month I don’t know the specifics for this system, but a full charge often isn’t necessary/desirable. With all batteries, charging to 80% or so can be done quickly, but the final 20% takes proportionally longer. The article also mentions the battery management system, which I think is becoming increasingly important – you don’t need it in the average mobile phone, but for higher powered devices it’s really essential for maintaining battery life.

    This article also states that Fast Charge will be trialled on the Greenford line early next year. Less welcome is the news that introduction of the 230s on the Wrexham line has been delayed again to “May 2022 at the latest” Testing and training has apparently been taking place Tue-Thu with the units based in the sidings here in Chester.

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 29, 2021 | Reply

    • The Vivarail trains would have the range, but would be a bit to slow at 60 mph to meet the timetable.

      Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021 | Reply

      • I have read somewhere that the batteries will possibly be added on Greater Anglia at the first major overhaul or something like that!

        Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021

    • Yes you’re right about the importance of the battery management system because of runaway exothermic reactions that have led to many battery fires which are extremely hard to contain. Tesla’s Megapack fire in Australia earlier this year has been put down to thermal runaway. This burned for 3 days
      I know that the company Magtec who have been involved in the Chiltern Railways HyDrive project had a runaway battery fire that Wass extremely difficult to control. So far as I know they are yet to put this diesel electric hybrid vehicle in operation.
      The Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries that Vivarail are using seem to be supplied by this company
      If you want to know more about Vivarail’s charging system you could do no better than to Google their two patents which on reading indicate the central issue of charging the batteries

      Comment by fammorris | October 6, 2021 | Reply

      • I am sure you are right about the safety issues, but I was thinking more about general management of the battery. describes a new product which uses clever software to increase life and generally make things better. As the article says, this can be done without any changes to the actual battery.

        Comment by Peter Robins | October 8, 2021

      • Yes the BMS is the brain behind the battery and although I, perhaps sensationally, highlighted its critical role of safety, you’re absolutely right to point out its roles regarding overall performance, charge rates, and longevity.
        This of course is an objective of all designers of Battery Management Systems.

        Comment by fammorris | October 8, 2021

  9. Helsingor to Helsingborg electric ferry – from the Fully Charged channel.
    We had a week’s holiday in Denmark Aug/SEP 2019 staying at Helsingor and one evening did a round trip on the electric Tycho Brahe ferry sister ship to Aurora.

    Comment by chilterntrev | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  10. Vivarail launched their next-generation battery train at COP26 last year. A good thing they used the term ‘next-generation.
    The Royal Hessian and Prussian state Railways launched a battery electric train in 1907,:which was to remain in service with the Reichsbahn and Deutsche Banh until 1962. This was to be succeeded by another battery multiple unit, of which 232 were produced that served DB in the Pflaz region of Western Germany from 1955 until 1986.
    But where would they have been without Robert Davidson, a Scot who demonstrated what was the first battery-electric train in 1842.
    Seems improbable but see the link to an Exhibition in Piccadilly in December 1842.

    Comment by fammorris | November 21, 2022 | Reply

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