The Anonymous Widower

BCRRE Recognised for its HydroFLEX Work

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on H2-View.

This is the introductory paragraph.

The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham has been recognised in the Guardian University Awards 2020 for its work in the UK’s first hydrogen powered train, HydroFLEX.

From my monitoring of the various hydrogen developments and their prominence, it appears that all questions are being explored and that hydrogen will have an extensive future on both rail and the road.

March 17, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Aerodynamic Research Facilities Enhanced

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

The University of Birmingham’s Transient Aerodynamic Investigation facility at Derby’s Rail Technology Centre business park has reopened following a £1·5m renovation.

It is certainly the start of a must-read article.

It is interesting, that Bombardier have been a user of the facility. As I have said before, the Aventra seems to have good aerodynamics, so was this facilty used to improve them?

March 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rail Research At Birmingham University

In Issue 898 of Rail Magazine, there is an article entitled Full Steam Ahead, which discusses the the work at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research an Education (BCRRE).

Amongst many subjects three are mentioned where I have a big interest.

Aerodynamics

The article says this.

Aerodynamics is also an important area for research, as any reduction in drag and air resistance due to structures will improve the energy efficiency of rail vehicles.

I very much agree with this approach.

I also feel that due to their low noise profiles as they pass by, that Bombardier have applied aerodynamic knowledge, perhaps from their aircraft engineers, to the design of the new Aventra.

Hydrogen Supplies For Hydrogen-Powered Trains

The article says this.

Funding has also been secured from Innovate UK to create a company that can provide the necessary infrastructure needed to support hydrogen trains, including fuelling stations and hydrogen generation facilities.

This sounds very similar to the systems that ITM Power ae deploying for Shell to fuel hydrogen buses, cars and other vehicles.

I hope that there is not too much duplication going on.

Working With Michigan State University And Stadler To Bring Hydrogen Trains To California

Co-operation is always good and especially in rail projects, where the number of trains involved is fairly small.

A Quote From Dr. Stuart Hillmansen of BCRRE

This quote is in the article.

Is is possible to completely decarbonise, by using electrolysis that is powered using renewable energy to create the fuel.

I completely agree with that!

Conclusion

I would hope that the BCRRE develops into a one step shop for the solution of rail related problems.

It does seem that by putting various areas of expertise together, they could be a go-to institution for those that want to built a hydrogen-powered rail service.

February 16, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is There Nothing A Class 319 Train Can’t Do?

If a train every goes into orbit round the world, it will be highly-likely that it will be a Class 319 train!

Electric Trains In North-West England

The fleet of eighty-six trains entered service in 1987 on Thameslink  and now twenty-seven are plying their trade on the electrified routes around the North-West of England.

  • You don’t hear many complaints about them being called London’s cast-offs.
  • Passengers fill them up in Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester and Preston.
  • They still do 100 mph where possible.
  • They seem to be reliable.
  • They are not the most attractive of trains.

But handsome is as handsome does!

Drivers have told me, that although the suspension may be a bit soft for the bumpy route across Chat Moss, the trains do have superb brakes.

Bi-Mode Class 769 Trains

Nearly thirty of the trains are being converted into bi-mode Class 769 trains for working partially-electrifired routes and although these are running late, they should be in service this year.

Rail Operations Group

Two Class 769 trains have been ordered to be fast logistics trains by Rail Operations Group.

Wikipedia says the trains will be used to transport mail.

But if you read the history of the Rail Operations Group, they make the assets sweat and I’ve read the trains will still have seats, so they might do some other rail operations.

The Hydrogen-Powered Class 799 Train 

And now comes the Class 799 train!

This is a demonstrator to prove the concept of conversion to hydrogen power.

The fact that the train now has it’s own number must be of some significance.

Alstom are converting Class 321 trains into Class 321 Breeze trains.

  • The conversion will reduce passenger capacity, due to the large hydrogen tank
  • It will have a 1,000 km range.
  • It will have regenerative breaking.
  • It will have a new AC traction package
  • It will probably have the interior of a Class 321 Renatus train.

The conversion will obviously build on Alstom’s experience with the Alstom Coradia iLint train and Eversholt’s experience with the Renatus.

When it comes to the Class 799 train, the following will apply.

  • Porterbrook have all the experience of creating the bi-mode and dual-voltage Class 769 train.
  • Birmingham University’s Birmingham Centre For Railway Research And Education (BCRRE) are providing the expertise to design and convert the Class 319 train to hydrogen power.
  • I also wouldn’t be surprised to find out, that the BCRRE has applied some very extensive mathematical modelling to find out the performance of a hydrogen-powered Class 319 train or HydroFLEX train.
  • The conversion could be based closely on Class 769 experience and sub-systems,

Could the main purpose be to demonstrate the technology and ascertain the views of train operators and passengers on hydrogen power?

The most important question, is whether the Class 799 train, will have the same passenger capacity as the original Class 319 train?

If it does, then BCRRE must have found a way to store the hydrogen in the roof or under the floor.

It should be noted, that it was only in September 2018, that the contract to develop the Class 799 train was signed and yet less than a year later BCRRE and Porterbrook will be demonstrating the train at a trade show.

This short development time, must mean that there is not enough time to modify the structure of the train to fit a large hydrphen tank inside, as Alstom are proposing.

A smaller hydrogen tank could be placed in one of three places.

  • Underneath the train.
  • On the roof.
  • Inside the train, if it is small enough to fit through the train’s doors.

Note.

  1. I doubt that anybody would put the tank inside the train for perceived safety reasons from passengers.
  2. On the roof, would require substantial structural modifications. Is there enough time?

So how do you reduce the size of the hydrogen tank and still store enough hydrogen in it to give the train a useful range?

In Better Storage Might Give Hydrogen The Edge As Renewable Car Fuel, I indicated technology from Lancaster University, that could store four times as much hydrogen in a given size of tank.

This reduced tank size would make the following possible.

  • The hydrogen tank, the fuel cell and the batteries could be located underneath the four-cars of the Class 319 train.
  • The seating capacity of the Class 799 train could be the same as that of a Class 319 train.

Clever electronics would link everything together.

If BCRRE succeed in their development and produce a working hydrogen-powered Class 799 train, how would the technology be used?

Personally, I don’t think we’ll see too many hydrogen-powered Class 799 trains, running passengers on the UK network.

  • The trains are based on a thirty-year-old train.
  • The interiors are rather utilitarian and would need a lot of improvement, to satisfy what passengers expect.
  • Their market can probably be filled in the short-term by more Class 769 trains.

But I do believe that the technology could be applied to more modern trains.

A Hydrogen-Powered Electrostar

Porterbrook own at least twenty four-car Electrostar trains, which have been built in recent years.

Six Class 387 trains, currently used by c2c, may come off lease in the next few years.

Could these trains be converted into a train with the following specification?

  • Modern train interior, with lots of tables and everything passengers want.
  • No reduction in passenger capacity.
  • 110 mph operating speed using electrification.
  • Useful speed and range on hydrogen power.
  • ERTMS capability, which Porterbrook are fitting to the Class 387 trains to be used by Heathrow Express.

It should be born in mind, that a closely-related Class 379 train proved the concept of a UK battery train.

  • The train was converted by Bombardier.
  • It ran successfully for three months between Manningtree and Harwich.
  • The interior of the train was untouched.

But what was impressive was that the train was converted to battery operation and back to normal operation in a very short time.

This leads me to think, that adding new power sources to an Electrostar, is not a complicated rebuild of the train’s electrical system.

If the smaller hydrogen tank, fuel cell and batteries can be fitted under a Class 319 train, I suspect that fitting them under an Electrostar will be no more difficult.

I believe that once the technology is proven with the Class 799 train, then there is no reason, why later Electrostars couldn’t be converted to hydrogen power.

  • Class 387 trains from c2c, Great Northern and Great Western Railway.
  • Class 379 trains, that will be released from Greater Anglia by new Class 745 trains.
  • Class 377 trains from Southeastern could be released by the new franchise holder.

In addition, some Class 378 trains on the London Overground could be converted for service on the proposed West London Orbital Railway.

A Hydrogen-Powered Aventra

If the Electrostar can be converted, I don’t see why an Aventra couldn’t be fitted with a similar system.

Conclusion

A smaller hydrogen tank, holding hydrogen at a high-density would enable trains to be converted without major structural modifications or reducing the passenger capacity.

The development of a more efficient method of hydrogen storage, would open up the possibilities for the conversion of trains to electric-hydrogen hybrid trains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ballard Receives Order From Porterbrook for Fuel Cell Module to Power UK HydroFLEX Train

The title of this post is the same as this article on Cision.

The article says that the copy has been provided by Ballard.

This is the first paragraph.

VANCOUVER and DERBY, U.K., Dec. 13, 2018 /CNW/ – Ballard Power Systems (NASDAQ: BLDP; TSX: BLDP) today announced that it has received a purchase order from Porterbrook Leasing Company Limited (“Porterbrook”; http://www.porterbrook.co.uk), a leading participant in the rail leasing market, for an FCveloCity®-HD fuel cell module and related support to power a HydroFLEX train in the U.K.

The article says this about the HydroFLEX train.

The HydroFLEX will be the U.K.’s first fully sized hydrogen demonstrator train. It will showcase how hydrogen can be used to power a train that retains the ability to operate across existing electric routes, on either 3rd rail or 25kV overhead power. Testing and demonstration runs are planned for the summer of 2019 at RailLive, which will take place at Long Marston in Warwickshire.

That sounds like it could be a date for my diary.

Strictly A Demonstrator

In this article on Rail Engineer, which is entitled Hydroflex – The Next Iteration Of The Flex Concept,there is a section entitled Strictly A Demonstrator, from which this was taken.

In response to Rail Engineer’s questions, BCRRE said that the demonstrator version focuses on delivering an electric/hydrogen bi-mode to UK gauge.

So the HydroFLEX is more about research., which I believe is a good route.

  • My feelings on seeing the Alstom Coradia iLint in Germany, was that they had launched too early!
  • Getting a University to run a demonstrator might show up the smaller problems associated with a complex project.
  • Birmingham University may also have access to better mathematics and computing.
  • The interior of the train can be used for test equipment and hydrogen tanks.

I also suspect that a well-designed demonstrator could help with the repurposing of Porterbrook’s extensive fleet, by doing appropriate research.

The Fuel Cell

The Ballard fuel cell is a HD variant of their  FCveloCity family.

This page on the Ballard web site is the data sheet.

  • The fuel cells come in three sizes 60, 85 and 100 kW
  • The largest fuel cell would appear to be around 1.2 m x 1 m x 0.5 m and weigh around 400 Kg.
  • The fuel cell has an associated cooling subsystem, that can provide heat for the train.

It would appear that mounting the fuel cell under the train floor would be a feasible proposition. I would assume that the cell would be placed under one of the driver cars.

If you search the Internet, you’ll find there is a lot of fuel cell companies out there innovating like crazy and fighting for market share.

I don’t think there will be any problem with the fuel cell in the HydroFLEX train.

The Electrical System

The electrical system of the Class 319 train is simple.

  • There is a 750 VDC busbar, which connects to all four cars.
  • The busbar is fed by the 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • One of the middle cars has the pantograph and the other has four 247.5 kW traction motors, which power the whole train.
  • There is no regenerative braking capability.
  • The two driver cars are only differentiated, by the seats installe by the operator.

It looks to me that this was a sensible piece of 1980s engineering by British Rail to create a low-cost dual-voltage train.

I do wonder, if the originator of this system is still hale and hearty. I suspect they are, as they certainly know how to design for a long life.

When Porterbrook commissioned the Class 769 train, the two diesel generators under the driver cars were connected into this busbar.

They didn’t add any energy storage to the train, although as I said in Brush Traction Signs Contract With Skeleton Technologies For Modules For Class 769 Trains, they have added SkelStart capacitors to start the diesel generators.

Effectively, the Class 769 train is an electric or diesel train, just like the Class 319 train is an overhead or third-rail electrificsation train.

Will the fuel cell of the HydroFLEX train be connected to the electrical system of the train in the same way?

Or will energy storage, be added to the drive train?

In a more advanced design, batteries or capacitors could be in the motored car.

  • They would be charged from the busbar.
  • They would power the traction motors.

If the traction motors, were to be changed to modern ones, that could perform regenerative braking, then this energy could be used to recharge the battery.

The Fuel Tank

I suspect as the train is for research, that a standard off-the-shelf hydrogen tank will be used.

This page on the Fuel Cells And Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, is entitled Improved Hydrogen Tanks For Fuel Cell Cars Of The Future.

This is the first paragraph.

The EU funded COPERNIC project, supported by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), succeeded in improving the quality of materials and design of hydrogen storage tanks for cars. It also made the manufacturing of these tanks more cost efficient, helping to make hydrogen cars a more viable and competitive option.

I think it is highly likely, that a well-designed hydrogen tank, could probably share the space under the driver car with the fuel cell.

If it can’t then as it’s a research project a few seats can be taken out.

 

 

 

December 16, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment