The Anonymous Widower

Cambridgeshire Company’s Self-Charging Trains Project Wins Government Funds

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

These four paragraphs outline what the company is developing and how they received government funding.

Echion Technologies, based in Sawston near Cambridge, is creating train batteries that can charge from overheard wires, the Department for Transport said.

The trains would be able to use the batteries on unelectrified track.

The project was among the winners of the government’s First of a Kind competition.

The competition aims to award funding to projects that could transform the future of transport.

I have a few thoughts.

The Description In The First Of A Kind 2022 Winners Document

In this document, this is said.

Project No: 10039100

Project title: UBER – Ultra-high power Battery for low Emission Rail
Project grant: £59,917

Public description: Project UBER (Ultra-high power Battery for low Emission Rail), aims to demonstrate for the first time, Echion’s XNO(tm) battery chemistry as the preferred battery technology for certain classes of battery electric trains. It targets Theme 1 of this competition.

Specifically, UBER aims to demonstrate the suitability of XNO(tm) for passenger trains that can be powered by the AC overhead electrification and charge a battery from the overhead wire (or another form of ‘standard’ trackside power — e.g. 3rd rail), to then run in battery-only mode on unelectrified section of a route. An example of such a train is the Revolution Very Light Rail (Revolution VLR) developed by Transport Design International (TDI), who is a partner in UBER.

Applying The Echion Technologies Batteries To Electric Trains


  • The BBC article is accompanied by a picture of a Class 717 train, which like the Class 700 train is dual voltage.
  • Southeastern have thirty similar Class 707 trains, which are third-rail, although according to Wikipedia, were tested as dual-voltage trains.
  • Most modern trains, like these Desiro City units made by Siemens, have a mix of motored and trailer cars, with one or more pantograph cars  between the two driver cars.
  • Because power is needed in all cars, there will be an electrical bus from one end of the train to distribute power.
  • All trains in the family appear to have at least one trailer car, which will also be connected to the electrical bus.

With a family of trains like the Desiro City, Alstom’s Aventra, CAF’s Civity, Hitachi’s AT-200 or AT-300 or Stadler’s FLIRTs, train manufacturers assemble various cars, interiors and electrical gubbins together, to get the train performance and capability.

I would expect that the battery would be placed, where there is space and the most likely place is under the trailer car.

In some ways, it would work like the battery in a laptop computer, where operation is as follows.

  • If there is external power, the computer runs on that power and the battery is also charged, if it is not fully-charged.
  • If there is no external power, the computer runs on battery power, until the battery goes flat.

With a battery-electric train, operation is similar, with an important addition.

  • If there is external power, the train runs on that power and the battery is also charged, if it is not fully-charged.
  • If there is no external power, the train runs on battery power, until the battery goes flat.
  • Desiro City and many other electric trains have regenerative braking and under braking, the electricity generated is is stored in the battery, if it is not fully-charged.

It could be considered by some, that regenerative braking is self-charging. But unfortunately, regenerative braking doesn’t recover all energy during braking. But it can be up to 70-80 % efficient.

Connecting The Echion Technologies Battery To The Train

The battery will have to be connected to the electrical bus, that runs the full length of the train.

As a Control Engineer, I suspect there will be a sophisticated control system, that will switch the battery between various modes and control the pantograph and third-rail shoes.

Perhaps, Echion Technologies have developed an all-purpose controller that could fit all trains?


November 16, 2022 - Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. A case of the wheel being reinvented. The old Southern Railway had Battery Electric locos with a Flywheel generator to smooth over rail gaps and neutral gaps. 750volt DC third rail, built at the change over to Nationalisation. They operated the Golden Arrow and Night Sleeper trains to France in 1960.

    Comment by jagracer | November 16, 2022 | Reply

  2. You could be right but don’t you think the way the information was imparted was pretty poor.
    So far as the control of the battery is concerned my money is on Vantage Power, Echion partner who I mentioned before in relationship to work they’ve done to support the bus industry and who already has a wide ranging portfolio of Intellectual Property relating to e-drives and battery management systems. Frankly as much as Echion may deserve rewarding in terms of the rail application I’d say the developer of the associated control equipment is equally entitled to recognition.
    BTW do you recall this Chinese CBM tri-axle bus tested in London and Hong Kong in 2018 which involved Vantage? New to me.

    Comment by fammorris | November 16, 2022 | Reply

    • Vantage had a two-axle bus tested on route 230 before the pandemic. I saw it once, but couldn’t get my camera out in time.

      It could also be there’s more to come. I suspect that the 707s could have added batteries and why not build a prototype based on one of Southeastern’s?

      It should be noted that Siemens’ Piccadilly Line trains will have batteries, so perhaps Echion will be developing those batteries for Siemens.

      Comment by AnonW | November 16, 2022 | Reply

      • Has anything more been said about the conversion of the Class 321 Renatus involving Vivarail.
        They may have li-ion batteries in the Siemens Deep Tube Stock but I’m afraid they’re for the auxiliary electrical system.
        As for Siemens working with Echion, for the moment Siemens’ corporate partner for batteries is Northvolt.
        I wonder how the rolling stock will be designated, will it be a year, say 25 Stock or will they use a letter? One thing’s for sure it can’t be D Stock.

        Comment by fammorris | November 16, 2022

  3. […] 10039100 – UBER – Ultra-High Power Battery For Low Emission Rail […]

    Pingback by First Of A Kind 2022 Winners Announced « The Anonymous Widower | November 17, 2022 | Reply

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