The Anonymous Widower

Northern Seeks Battery-Hybrid Class 195 Variant

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the introduction to the article.

Northern Trains is seeking to introduce a battery-diesel hybrid version of its CAF Class 195 diesel multiple-units.

The article makes these points.

  • The trains will be used on the lines modernised under the TransPennine Upgrade.
  • Offers for trains with finance is being requested.
  • Technology similar to Chiltern Rail’s Class 165 Hydrive train from Magtec would be ideal.

But I am not sure that this is the right train.

In How Much Electrification Will There Be In The TransPennine Route Upgrade?, I came to this conclusion.

By electrifying all the lines in the TransPennine Upgrade, it would allow all the stopping and slower services to be run by battery-electric trains.

I also said that battery-electric trains from both Hitachi and CAF had enough range to work all the TransPennine routes.

Given that I had my first ride in a battery-electric train in 2015, they have certainly been a long time coming.

It’s almost, as if the Men from the Ministry believe that battery trains will be inferior to diesel.

January 13, 2022 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , ,


  1. Whoever wrote the article is not a good writer, how difficult is it to research the facts… 195 is a diesel unit, there’s no point putting batteries on it, or? Now a 331 is of course electric that could use batteries…

    Comment by Daniel Altmann | January 14, 2022 | Reply

  2. I understood CAF have been planning a Class 331 train with batteries.

    Comment by AnonW | January 14, 2022 | Reply

    • You’re right there is indeed a BEMU. It was announced on Wikipedia and elsewhere in June 2021 that the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) and the Nahverkehr Westfalen-Lippe (NWL) were to purchase CAF Civity vehicles. CAF are to build and maintain for 30 years, 60 battery electric multiple units for the Niederrhein-Münsterland regional train network. The fleet will be owned by the VRR and NWL and will be made available to the train operating company that has yet to be selected. The operations on the individual services are due to start between December 2025 and 2028.

      Comment by fammorris | January 14, 2022 | Reply

  3. Without details of the state of development of the Magtec drive system in a rail vehicle it’s not easy to assess attractiveness of specifying such an arrangement for the intended Northern Rail hybrid, what should not be overlooked is the policy being enacted by the DfT in regard to standardisation of rolling stock solutions. You only have to look at the choice of CAF’s Civity platform in fulfilling the requirements of Northern Rail with both the Class 331 and Class 195, Transpennine’s Class 397 TPE Express and the CAF Mk5A coaches together with the selection of Hitachi and it’s Class 802’s for Transpennine to see what’s going on.
    So when it comes to new rolling stock for either Northern Rail or TPE it’s likely, if you put Hitachi to one side, to be a CAF Civity based vehicle. Could they select, say, a Class 385 derivative with similar equipment to that hinted at in the Rail Gazette article; yes they could but firstly it’s not common to Northern Rail and probably Hitachi have production constraints.
    So what about the Magtec hybrid layout? As configured for the Class 165002 testbed it comprises two transversely mounted engine AC generator sets all contained in a modular raft a rectifier, 600V DC link and inverter driving a body mounted traction motor with a maximum rated capacity 400kW. A battery pack is included on another raft which currently works alongside the engine-gen sets to drive the traction motor which is attached to a power bogie and the exact distribution of power to the final drive is controlled to permit emission free operation approaching and departing stations. Magtec also incorporate the traction drive controls and remote condition monitoring equipment.
    The key attraction to Northern Rail and their masters in the DfT is that Magtec’s design has been built with the UK’s wider Net Zero goal in mind which will allow for the future replacement of the diesel generator units with a larger battery capacity or a Hydrogen Fuel Cell option.
    The only question is, how mature is the technology? It was only in late December, after a mysterious 18 months in the old Engineering Development Unit of the Railway Technical Centre in Derby that 165002 emerged. If it’s on Chiltern Railway’s tracks now it will have less than a month’s service. Is it just running up and down the line accumulating miles or is it in revenue earning service, I don’t know.
    If I were sitting in CAF at the moment I’d like to know who bears liability for the design.

    Comment by fammorris | January 14, 2022 | Reply

    • isn’t it 165004 that has had the Hydrive fitted?

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 14, 2022 | Reply

      • Sometimes you just assume the information is correct so thanks for correcting it. The Magtec test train with Hydrive is according to two independent sources I just checked 165004.
        For the record the set retrofitted with the HybridFLEX system supplied by Rolls-Royce MTU is 168329.
        I was puzzling over the prospect of CAF being asked to offer a battery-diesel hybrid based on the somewhat unproven Magtec concept I dealt with earlier.
        The Class 195 of course is designed with an Rolls-Royce MTU Powerpack; wouldn’t it be simpler and less risky to take the already proven hybrid power pack made by the same company, which apart from the large battery pack occupies the same space. It would also avoid any possible need to change the final drives and the gearing ratios leaving the bogie assemblies the same as the Class 195s.
        I know I’ve covered this before but in a full hybrid system such as MTU’s HybridFLEX, the electric motor for the drive looks as though it’s integrated into the vehicle transmission. A considerably higher system voltage of up to 600 volts also enables purely electric driving for rail vehicles such with adequate performance for stopping services as well as for limited stop, longer distances.
        To optimise the underfloor space on the railcar and to replicate as far as possible, the original mounting of the MTU Powerpack fitted in the Class 195, the electric motor appears to be integrated into the transmission housing. This hybrid version enables the vehicle to be driven purely electrically or with the combustion engine only. In this way the electric motor can supplement the power of the combustion engine when accelerating. During braking, the electric motor turns into a generator converting braking energy into electric energy that is stored in the battery.
        This idea is replicated in the design philosophy used by ZF (a company less than 15 minutes from the MTU factory in Friedrichshafen) in their latest automotive products, which you can see in the following link; ignore the 4 wheels and just remember the battery pack on the battery diesel railcar is far larger than that shown here.

        Comment by fammorris | January 14, 2022

      • well, the original article doesn’t actually say it would be the Magtec version, just that it would offer similar functionality. CAF do say they can fit batteries to any type of traction so I assume Northern/DfT would leave it up to them to suggest what to do. If the 195s run on an electric motor, then this should be relatively straightforward, I would have thought. As you say, this would enable regen braking power to recharge the battery. And in the future, there’s the option of taking out the diesel altogether.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 14, 2022

      • You’re probably right that Northern Rail will leave it up to CAF, but the original Rail Gazette article did say .. “offer similar benefits to the HyDrive system fitted to Chiltern Railways’ testbed DMU 165 022”
        HyDrive and Hybrid FLEX have different outcomes especially when it comes to future enhancements. But I’m splitting hairs, we proved that the Class 175 was incapable of meeting specified max speed yet to this day everything still says it will do 160km/h.

        Comment by fammorris | January 14, 2022

  4. the Hudd-Brad route would be within battery range once Hudd-Dew electrification is complete, which the IRP has down for 2030. Until then, you would have to install some recharging capability. The Lds-Wigan route only uses the Trans-Pennine line Lds-Mirfield (again 2030) and then very briefly through Vic-Salford. Plus there’s the final bit into Wigan which should be electrified before too long. So, atm, I think that’s a borderline battery range, and so I’m not sure it would be a priority.

    It does seem strange, though, to be buying new diesel trains lasting 30 years or more when the objective is to get rid of the things.

    Comment by Peter Robins | January 14, 2022 | Reply

    • I am coming round to the opinion, that these trains are rather a boob-buy.

      To make matters worse, they have a noisy transmission.

      I think, that the only way to decarbonise them, is for MTU to convert the engines to run on hydrogen.

      After all, they have the technology with some of their larger engines.

      Rolls-Royce Provide mtu Trigeneration Plant For Largest Data Centre In Romania

      If it could be done, this would see the DMUs live out their useful lives.

      Comment by AnonW | January 14, 2022 | Reply

    • I also love that they are only talking about Transpenine routes for Hybrid(BEMU)s , when my favorite example for a Battery unit is CLC, which is ~12 miles from Liverpool South Parkway to Warrington Central (as there could be a short electified section powered from WCML, and then 15 miles to Trafford Stadium where electrification begins again. Even without Warrington section this should be achievable to battey trains nowadays.

      Comment by Daniel Altmann | January 19, 2022 | Reply

  5. I’ll agree that the original story raises more questions than answers but I don’t know about the reason for saying they’ve got noisy transmissions.
    If you could run the engines near their ideal consumption and emissions mapping noise would be diminished. Hybridisation assists this. Spark assisted compression ignition hydrogen engines are coming but not tomorrow for automotive/mobile applications. You may do away with Carbon Dioxide emissions but you currently still have the issue of Nitrous Oxide. Yes MTU and virtually everyone else is on the way to 100% hydrogen in the next 2 or 3 years but that’s with special purpose gas engines that are already differentiated by being used for steady state operations such as generation. Jenbacher announced last July that some of their gas engines are 100% ready. You could always pop down to St Bart’s Hospital and suggest they swap their Jenbacher combined cooling, heat, and power (CCHP) plant over now.

    Comment by fammorris | January 14, 2022 | Reply

  6. I think this all comes back to the lack of a coherent decarbonisation strategy. If your plan is to remove diesel by 2040, how does ordering new DMUs which will last until at least 2050 fit in with that? This applies to the other Civity trains as well as the 195s. According to Wikipedia, Northern now has 58 195s, WMT has 26 196s on order for delivery this year, and TfW has 77 197s on order for delivery next year. TfW plans to use these to replace its Sprinters, and WMT will replace Turbostars which it will pass on to EMR for them to replace their Sprinters. As the Civities are much greener than the aging Sprinters, that will reduce emissions, but not remove them. In addition, if my maths is correct, Northern still has 208 Sprinters. What’s the plan for them?

    The priority is to remove emissions in stations and urban areas. If you don’t have the funds for large-scale track electrification, then a short-term strategy would be to add small batteries to power the trains in those areas. Then you can save up for larger expenditure to fully decarbonise in, say, 10 years time. However, if that’s your strategy, it should surely apply to all trains and should have been specified when the Civities were ordered. Quite apart from anything else, this would be cheaper than having 150-odd DMUs which have to be retrofitted to battery or whatever.

    Comment by Peter Robins | January 15, 2022 | Reply

    • It does look as though the strategy is being modified on the hoof.
      Addressing the case of the Class 197, if the priority is to remove emissions in stations and urban areas the option has to be there for TfW to issue a contract variation for the second tranche, the last 26 of the 77, to be built with the Rolls-Royce MTU HybridFLEX arrangement. It is a plug and play replacement for the original PowerPack as fitted in the first 51 units and includes the batteries to power the trains in the way you suggest.
      I’d have thought that Rolls-Royce Power Systems, let alone CAF would have a strategy within the maintenance/train service and spares contract to exchange out the original PowerPack for the hybrid version at some point in the future.
      If they can do this for Class197 there’s no reason they can’t do it for the 195s and 196s

      Comment by fammorris | January 15, 2022 | Reply

    • carrying on from this … Even if I accept that adding batteries to DMUs is a sensible short-term strategy, it makes no sense in the longer term. Taking these 2 routes as examples: fast forward 10 years, and both Transpennine and Bradford Interchange should be electrified. But the 195s won’t be able to make use of that, as they don’t have a pantograph. Northern will be running diesel trains under the wires – which is daft. What will be needed then is BEMUs, which can use the wires.

      Most English routes outside the SW peninsula are either already within battery range of an electrified line, or will be as electrification continues and battery range increases. So what they will all need is the ability to use the wires where available. Diesel traction only provides that if it’s bi-mode and can use either/or.

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 16, 2022 | Reply

      • In this post, I talk about Bombardier’s proposal for a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra with batteries.

        Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power

        This post says to me, that the Aventra is agnostic about power and one train can use diesel, electric and battery power.

        Alstom are how adding hydrogen to the mix instead of diesel in their project with Eversholt. Is the hydrogen system, just a replacement for Bombardier’s proposed diesel?

        It would also appear that Hitachi’s and Stadler’s designs also allow diesel, electric and battery power in the same train.

        If I had been CAF, I would have proposed a train, that was agnostic about power.

        CAF made a mistake and customers bought it.

        Comment by AnonW | January 16, 2022

      • Bombardier may have proposed such a machine, but they have had 0 orders. They may have thought they would get lots of BEMU orders after the 2015 trial, but they’ve had no luck there either. I don’t think it’s the manufacturers who decide what traction to use. And the incentives aren’t there for the operators either, unless BEMUs are substantially cheaper to run than DMUs. We will wait to see what plans GBR has.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 16, 2022

  7. I wonder when Rolls-Royce told CAF, that they were going to produce the MTU HybridFLEX. The Class 195, 196 and 197 trains were ordered in 2017 or 2018.

    I posted three posts on the MTU Hybrid PowerPack on September 2018 including this one concerning Chiltern.

    Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks

    Comment by AnonW | January 15, 2022 | Reply

    • I was expecting that question AnonW 😀
      The idea was first discussed in the Eisenbahntecnische Rundschau in September 2015 but is dealt with in a further article published in Feb 2018 Eurorailpress Technical Review (ETR). It’s inspiration is as an application for the Lake Constance Belt Railway, a scenic regional and cross border line, where electrification of the line is extremely sensitive and to justify the feasibility of the proposal for a hybrid drive in an existing VT612 tilting railcar MTU were able to simulate the performance of the existing vehicle on a test rig. This was then successfully compared with the hybrid version.
      With the commitment of DB, by Autumn 2018 both Irish Rail and Porterbrook were onboard with the project. If you look at the original illustrations, with more recent ones you can see a lot of development in the power pack.

      Comment by fammorris | January 15, 2022 | Reply

  8. Look at Rolls-Royce press releases on this page for September 2018.

    The first four releases are dated the 19/20 of September and are about MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.

    So why are the 195, 196 and 197 trains not powered by the hybrid power packs?

    Comment by AnonW | January 15, 2022 | Reply

    • Because it wasn’t sufficiently developed to clear all of the technical and commercial hurdles that have to satisfy both Rolls-Royce Power Systems and regulatory authorities.

      Comment by fammorris | January 15, 2022 | Reply

  9. It must have been good enough for Alpha Trains, Alstom, Irish Rail and Porterbrook.

    Although Porterbrook do seem to be more adventurous than some rolling stock companies.

    Comment by AnonW | January 15, 2022 | Reply

    • Many a slip twixt cup and lip. I doubt that you’re aware that the September 2018 announcements were made at Innotrans exhibition in Berlin – . The fact is, that in addition to MTU’s need to productionise and the need for engineering, safety approvals carried out by Ricardo, the four sets ordered by Porterbrook weren’t available until last summer. Irish Rail won’t get their 9 until this year and for some reason minus the batteries which are to be fitted some time in the future!
      What happened to Porterbrook’s second conversion of a Class 170 I haven’t a clue why that hasn’t happened.
      As for Alstom and the iLint conversions in Saxo-Anhalt, it doesn’t help when the regional railway’s train operator Abellio became insolvent last year.

      Comment by fammorris | January 15, 2022 | Reply

      • It has been the same with battery-electric trains. Delay and dither. Look how long Uckfield has been in development.

        From my research at Harwich, I believe that any line that goes battery-electric will see an increase in passenger numbers. It’s curiosity in the first instance.

        Comment by AnonW | January 15, 2022

  10. I have found Rolls-Royce’s press release on the Lake Constance Railway and it looks like an engineers’ solution to one politicians will dither about for years.

    I am currently writing a post.

    Comment by AnonW | January 15, 2022 | Reply

    • Politicians, accountants and idealistic environmentalists, you mean.

      Comment by fammorris | January 15, 2022 | Reply

    • And here’s an irony, the eastern leg of the Lake Constance Belt Railway has been electrified while the western section will be wired by 2030

      Comment by fammorris | January 15, 2022 | Reply

  11. I did a search to try and find out the current status with 168329. The last ref I could find is from end Nov, which states it was still in test.

    I’ve also just been looking again at RR’s submission to the Commons Transport Committee 3 years ago At the end, this states that they estimate battery life at 8 years, and “Our hybrid system design allows for replacement of the current batteries with future battery technology”.

    Comment by Peter Robins | January 15, 2022 | Reply

    • And to build a sufficiently robust case for the system and to have confidence for its future roll out, if you are any financing company like Porterbrook, train operators particularly like TfW, West Midlands and Northern Rail; or these days the ogres of Marsham Street you’ve got to get a solid problem free year’s running in revenue service to understand the wrinkles of the technology. In conservative terms that looks like the end of 2022.
      By that time they’ll have real world data on fuel savings, savings on brake wear, perceived and actual noise reduction both on the train and sensitive areas as well as adherence to the timetable. It’s just a pity they won’t have more real world data from other UK operators to compare with the test rig simulation of MTU.
      It’s also a shame that the Irish Rail investigations have fallen behind as I noticed from reports that apart from the delayed introduction of batteries to their hybrid raft they are following a different operating philosophy. If the reports are correct, the Irish Class 22000 are being equipped with a hybrid arrangement with a motor rated at 150kW rather than the 400kW motor on 168329. This implies that the Irish are following the plan of a mild hybrid rather than the option of a full hybrid. I wonder to what purpose.
      As for future battery development, I think anybody with an ounce of technological interest would have felt confident in saying what Rolls-Royce did, what with the sort of work being undertaken on solid state, Lithium Sulfur developments or some new type of battery somewhere in between lithium and ultracaps but a much greater ability than lithium to deliver large spikes of power quickly. It’s just a question of when

      Comment by fammorris | January 16, 2022 | Reply

      • yes, exactly. I would be confident that at some point batteries will out-perform diesel in every respect, as well as being smaller and cheaper. I am however much less confident as to when that might be. Tech development has several distinct stages: first, researchers develop something small scale in the lab; there’s then a long gap until people work out how to mass-produce; and the third stage is tweaks and streamlining to improve the process and reduce the costs. We’ve seen this in combustion engines (modern ones are a vast improvement on those that were around when I was a boy); in digital cameras (I bought a snazzy new camera in 2000, which was obsolete within a few years); in telecoms (who would have thought 30 years ago how many MB you could download on the copper wire into my home); and for that matter in Li-ion batteries which have improved greatly since Sony started mass production in 1991.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 16, 2022

      • your mention of solid-state prompted me to look up the current status of Mercedes (formerly Daimler) eCitaro with Blue Solutions Li-metal-polymer batteries, introduced end 2020. It seems they had a problem which meant the batteries had to be recalled last spring, but they’re now back in service. I can’t find definite figures on the numbers that are in use, but it seems to be around 40 in various German cities.

        There’s an interesting interview with Blue Solutions MD at I was quite surprised to see that the batteries cost about the same as current Li-ion ones, which implies the cost should decrease substantially as mass production ramps up. Presumably this is because the materials used are much cheaper than standard NMC.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 18, 2022

      • Peter, well Blue Solutions wouldn’t be the first peop

        Comment by fammorris | January 18, 2022

  12. I see that the Forsee batteries used by Wrightbus have an energy density of 166 Wh/Kg. I don’t think anybody can foresee what they will be in ten years time.

    If you consider that many diesel engines and all their gubbins can weigh around 5-7 tonnes, we are talking about a battery of a MWh being almost possible now!

    Using Ian Walmsley’s formula of an EMU using 3-5 kWh per vehicle-mile on a route like the Uckfield Branch, this would mean that a four-car EMU that used 5 kWh per vehicle mile would do fifty miles on a charge. Use 3 kWh per vehicle mile and it does 83 miles.

    The trouble is that a PPE course at Oxbridge doesn’t include practical maths, like what I learned from my mum over the kitchen table.

    Comment by AnonW | January 16, 2022 | Reply

    • Tesla are now concentrating on LiFePO ( summarises the pros/cons quite well), as are some other auto manufacturers. The emphasis here is removing expensive ingredients like cobalt, rather than energy density per se.

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 16, 2022 | Reply

      • I know from work going on at Liverpool University, that there is a lot of work going on to improve the environmental footprint of solar panels, as well as batteries.

        Comment by AnonW | January 16, 2022

    • PS I think you must have had an unusual mum 🙂

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 16, 2022 | Reply

      • She was different, as she had won a scholarship to Dame Alice Owens Girls School just after the First World War. She had matriculated and these days, she would have probably gone to a good university to read maths. Instead all she could do was work in the Accounts Department at Reeves in Dalston, where she was a comptometer operator amongst other things. She taught me a lot of mathematical tricks, which I still use.

        Comment by AnonW | January 16, 2022

    • I’d not heard of Forsee Batteries until you mentioned them. Quite a player in the market.
      This link is interesting for the joint strategy Forsee and Ballard have embarked on.
      Now I can really see this developing for heavy duty vehicles.

      Comment by fammorris | January 16, 2022 | Reply

      • It must be eight or nine years ago since I saw a presentation by one of Wrightbus’s designers at the IMechE. I t was mainly about the new Routemaster, but I was very impressed with their thoroughness.

        I wouldn’t be surprised, that Wrightbus did a scientifically-correct trawl of the world’s battery makers and came to the conclusion, that the French company had a certain Je n’cest quoi!

        Given too, that Wrightbus have as long a history with Ballard as anybody does and now that the company is privately owned by the JCB family, I suspect that Ballard and Forsee have no problems with Wrightbus as a partner.

        The only problem would be if Wrightbus were to build a bus around one of JCB’s hydrogen internal combustion engines.

        Supposing if JCB could produce a small hydrogen engine, I wonder if it could replace the Cummins diesel on a New Routemaster.

        Anybody, who does that, would get a thousand orders immediately.

        Comment by AnonW | January 16, 2022

      • Regarding your question about a hydrogen powered engine replacing the Cummins diesel units in the Routemaster assuming the problem of these engines which are particularly sensitive to transients in load in terms of thermal efficiency can be ameliorated, there is in the end the question about cost of energy per kWh.
        To address this the nearest I could come to a comparison was the Arcola blog comparing diesel ICE and the hydrogen Fuel Cell.

        Wrightbus concur with this data
        For a Hydrogen Powered ICE you can amend the value of the Conversion Efficiency in the lower row to a range of 30-40% owing to transient combustion characteristics of these engines
        By doing this you can see that the cost of Energy per kWh of Traction Energy will lie between 1.25 and 1.6 times higher than the comparable figure for the diesel powered version.
        On the relationship between Wrightbus and JCB I always wonder what happens when Jo succeeds his father.

        Comment by fammorris | January 16, 2022

  13. Cameras. I got my daughter to bring me back one of those new, expensive and largely unavailable digital cameras from Japan in 2000 when she was living there. Unfortunately it came with no manual and I spent 3 or 4 hours downloading it through one of those copper wires you mention. Absolutely useless now.

    Comment by fammorris | January 16, 2022 | Reply

  14. Peter Robbins, said that you didn’t think it’s the manufacturers who decide what traction to use. It’s not only traction.
    Anybody that remembers the ADtranz Networker Classic project of 1997 can attest to the fiasco that was taking a Class 442 and trying to turn it into a hard-up operator’s Networker.
    Equally when it comes to Operators and Vehicle Financing Companies and their ‘nice to haves’ there are no guarantees on future business. Ask them to share in the financing of the development and in most cases they run a mile. The rail supply industry is littered with loss making enterprises incurred when the supplier didn’t get the firm commitment of the ‘customer’.
    Back in 2018 The UK Automotive Council estimated that the energy density of batteries could quadruple by 2035, yet even this is only one tenth of the energy density of diesel. You’ve got a long way to go to supplant diesel power with the battery.
    In the case of the Class 195 hybrid it’s not a case of either one mode of propulsion or the other, you can manage the delivery of power to the wheels by using a mixture of both battery and diesel. For me the thought that as time goes by you can increase the energy capacity of the battery element, while reducing the power to be delivered by a diesel engine is attractive. A HyDrive solution, modified in the way that Honda Hybrids delivers power to the wheels, would be optimum since the size of the engine can be minimised and with its consumption and emmisions.
    In the example of Transpennine itself and future electrification perhaps putting batteries onto the Civity based Class 397 with its Pantograph is more sensible over time at which point Class 195, 196 and 197s could be be re-allocated to those far flung outposts like the South West and the North of Scotland lines

    Comment by fammorris | January 16, 2022 | Reply

    • regarding energy density, I’m not sure that it’s that important, to be honest. Take EVs. When people first started developing them, the doubters said it was impractical because the battery would have to be huge. But this is no longer really an issue. There are still concerns over where you can charge the things and how long it takes – the chemical process involved is slow. They’re also still pricier. But otherwise, EVs outperform ICE. They have better acceleration (due to the electric motor, not the battery itself), they are easier to drive, are quieter and cleaner, require little maintenance, and are a lot cheaper to run, even with high electric prices. What’s more, you can use the battery for other things, like power your home or sell power to the grid when prices are high. If you have a power source at home, like solar PV, you can recharge for free.

      Trains are of course bigger and heavier, and require more power. But various trials have shown that BEMUs can do the job of a DMU, whilst having better acceleration, and being cleaner and quieter. The RR submission I linked to earlier says that you’d need a battery weighting 75 tonnes to last for as long as a tank of diesel. But to my mind this is a bit of a red herring. Nobody needs a battery lasting for 22 hours, just one that can take you to the next charging point. Several of the recent orders for BEMUs in Germany include provision of extra charging points at stations on the unelectrified track sections, and that’s all you need. They seem to be erring on the side of caution, but that’s no doubt wise. Britain is well behind continental countries in electrification, but there are still large parts of routes which run at least partially under the wires, which BEMUs with a pantograph can make use of not just for direct power, but for recharging the battery. Changing to BEMUs may well require new operating procedures, and routes/timetables may have to be changed to make optimum use of the charging points. As battery range improves, you can either reduce the recharging time or reduce the size of battery needed for a given route.

      To take this a bit further. Capacitors, even the super- ones, have a tiny energy density. But with Alstom’s trams in Nice, they just need enough power to get the next stop where they can be recharged. The airport route, along the Promenade des Anglais, is dead flat, and I suspect if it were hillier, the capacitors might struggle and run out of puff, but that’s a different scenario – they do what they’re supposed to.

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 16, 2022 | Reply

      • I’m afraid I have to disagree with you, energy density is very important, you even imply it by pointing out that since their proposal batteries have become smaller. This a product of improvements in energy density, yet here we are even designing EVs like the Tesla around the battery due to its weight and size. If diesel fuel tanks were to weigh the same as a battery through having a similar energy density traditional vehicle design would be severely compromised. We may accept the Tesla but we do so at a weight penalty compared to a comparable vehicle with an internal combustion engine. Increasing energy density allows us either to reduce the weight of the battery pack while retaining the same range or increase range whilst maintaining the current weight. Increasing range also reduces the need for ‘unecessary’ charging infrastructure, a point that I feel you should also consider when discussing BEMUs.
        Power density gives us the ability to quickly release energy in transient situations; i.e. acceleration. Conversely it is an indicator of the ability to recharge. This battery feature is also desirable in terms of stop start duty load cycles, the to time taken to recharge and the anticipated life of the battery in terms of its charge/discharge cycles.
        Both the need for improved energy and power density are what are driving many of the initiatives I mentioned before and why battery/supercapacitors hybrid concepts have often been considered
        I have to agree that EVs are with a little practice easier to drive, quieter and cleaner, with less maintenance. I’m not going to get involved in the price of energy, I can’t help but believe energy pricing is ultimately a political football.
        And yes the internal combustion engine with its speed/torque characteristics is positively archaic as a concept compared with the electric motor. Amazing when you think they both emerged at almost the same time as contenders for vehicle propulsion.
        As for the other uses for the battery I absolutely agree, ideal.
        It’s unfortunate that Rolls-Royce should give evidence to Parliament regarding the 75 tonnes battery weight. In the foregoing clause of their submission they recognise that continuous full power operating over the capacity of a full tank would never happen, thus to use the same criteria is at best misleading. Taking a real life case of the 158s running between London and Exeter with the less fuel efficient hydraulic transmission, each car’s consumption is not better than 6mile/gal with each vehicle doing about 820 miles per day. A 1740 litre fuel tank has a range of 1100 – 1200 miles. As you can see for the longer routes refuelling is a daily event throughout most of the week.
        As for BEMUs in Germany, including provision for extra charging points at stations on sections of unelectrified track, charging should be done essentially while under the overhead line, resorting to charging points only when there is no option.
        Britain may well be behind Western Europe for electrification but a similar approach for BEMUs will need to be applied.

        Comment by fammorris | January 16, 2022

      • ok. To clarify, what I meant with ‘isn’t that important’ was that battery size/weight is no longer an issue when deciding whether an EV or BEMU is up to the job. Batteries do not have to have the energy density (or more correctly if we’re talking about weight, specific energy) of petrol/diesel to compete commercially.

        Comment by Peter Robins | January 17, 2022

  15. I’d still prefer my Tesla 3 series to weigh the quarter of a tonne less like the comparable petrol engined vehicles. Think how much further I could go in it if I didn’t have to haul this additional weight around 🙂

    Comment by fammorris | January 17, 2022 | Reply

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