The Anonymous Widower

MagniX Electric Aircraft Engines Take To The Skies

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on pv magazine Australia.

This is the introductory paragraph.

No emissions, low-cost regional flights with just eight other sanitised folk and a disinfected pilot… Yes, Covid-19 is warping our view of the future, but the successful electrically powered maiden flight last week of a Cessna Caravan aircraft, offers the potential for new models of travel supporting wider distribution of commerce in Australia.

The article goes on to discuss Roei Ganzarski’s vision of what zero-emission electrically-powered aviation could do.

Economics

This is a paragraph from the article.

Its successful half-hour, 160km test flight used less than US$6 worth of electricity, compared to a Cessna Caravan powered by conventional combustion engine which would have sucked up some US$300-400 worth of fuel. And Ganzarski points out that, as in electric vehicles, the motor requires very little maintenance compared to its gas-guzzling cousins.

That is impressive.

The Market

This is a sentence from the article.

MagniX says 45% of all airline flights cover less than 800 km, while 5% of flights are sub-160 km, and it’s likely that commercial electric flights powered by magniX motors will first be offered in the UK, US or Europe.

I didn’t believe that the proportion of short flights was so high.

I could see all flights below 160 km (100 miles) will be flown by electric aircraft and a large proportion of those below (800 km (500 miles) going in the same direction.

The Vision

This is a paragraph from the article.

You could have phenomenal factories or businesses in these places that can’t currently sell their goods or can’t receive goods because the 4.5 to 6-hour truck drive that happens maybe once a week is just operatively prohibitive. If you could have an aircraft do that in 20, 40, 60 minutes and do it with zero emissions at a really low cost, and suddenly you’re really connecting these communities…

As it was given in quotes, I would assume it was spoken by Roei Ganzarski.

What would that do for high-quality agricultural products and seafood produced on remote islands.

This statement is in the Wikipedia entry for Loganair.

Loganair is planning to introduce electric aircraft to the Orkney Islands by 2021 due to the short distance between the islands that would make such flights possible.

They seem to be following a parallel path, with their involvement in Project Fresson. But as that development of a Britten-Norman Islander, is not planned to fly until 2022, could Loganair be a possible launch customer for an electric Cessna Caravan?

  • Loganair have the ideal short routes.
  • The electric Caravan won’t be the most difficult aircraft to certify for flying with a Supplemental Type Certificate, as several other Caravan variants with a change of powerplant, are flown this way.
  • The environmental profile fits some of Loganair’s routes in Scotland.
  • According to Roei Ganzarski, the economics would be ideal for Loganair’s routes.
  • Roei Ganzarski gave a long sales promotion-style interview on the BBC. Who was he targetting?

But the biggest factor is that Roei Ganzarski appears to be a showman in the mould of those great Victorian engineer/entrepreneurs, who defined and built much of the world we admire. What better stage is there to showcase his electric aircraft, but the remote airports served by Loganair?

The Specification

The Wikipedia entry for the Cessna Caravan now has s section for the electric Caravan, where this is said.

The eCaravan is an electric aircraft modification of the 208B built by AeroTEC and magniX powered by a 750 hp (560 kW) motor and a 1 t (2,200 lb), 750V lithium-ion battery. Its 30 min first flight happened from Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, on May 28, 2020, consuming $6 worth of electricity, needing 30-40 min of charging. The Magni500-powered variant can fly 100 mi (160 km) with 4-5 passengers while keeping reserve power, and aims for a certification by the end of 2021, hoping to operate 100-mile flights with a full load of nine passengers with better batteries.

The pv magazine Australia article says the flight was for 160 km (100 miles), so that would cover a lot of short routes.

Suppose with reserves, that the plane should have a one hour endurance. my experience of piloting aircraft leads me to estimate that the average power setting would be less than fifty percent of full power for a real flight, as cruise and descent, need a lot less power than climb.

This would mean, that the aircraft needs to take-off with around 280 kWh of fuel, which would be enough to power the motor at half-power for an hour.

In Sparking A Revolution, I comment on an article of the same name in Issue 898 of Rail Magazine, which talks about Hitachi’s plans for battery-electric trains.

This is an insert in the Rail Magazine article, which will apply to all applications with traction batteries. Including aviation!

This is said.

The costs of batteries are expected to halve in the next five years, before dropping further again by 2030.

Hitachi cites research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) which expects costs to fall from £135/kWh at the pack level today to £67/kWh in 2025 and £47/kWh in 2030.

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI)  is also predicting that battery energy density will double in the next 15 years, from 700 Wh/l to 1,400 Wh/l in 2035, while power density (fast charging) is likely to increase four times in the same period from 3 kW/kg now to 12 kW/kg in 2035.

This page on the Clean Energy institute at the University of Washington is entitled Lithium-Ion Battery.

This is a sentence from the page.

Compared to the other high-quality rechargeable battery technologies (nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride), Li-ion batteries have a number of advantages. They have one of the highest energy densities of any battery technology today (100-265 Wh/kg or 250-670 Wh/L).

The highest figure of 670 Wh/l would appear to fit the Hitachi extract, where 700 Wh/l is quoted.

If I use the Wh/kg figure, it would appear that a one tonne battery could hold between 100 kWh and 265 kWh.

I suspect, that the higher figure would be enough to perform the 160 km. test flight, which I estimated could need 280 kWh.

But battery development in the next few years will be on the side of Roei Ganzarski’s vision.

Conclusion

Electric aircraft are not a politically correct mad idea, but a serious proposition to make the world a better place.

The article is a must-read!

June 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Equipmake Opens New Electric Bus Factory In Snetterton

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from Equipmake.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Expert electrification company, Equipmake, has opened a brand-new factory in Snetterton, Norfolk, which will design and manufacture its fully-integrated electric bus chassis for an increasingly international customer base.

This paragraph sums up their marketing philosophy for their bus chassis.

Equipmake’s innovative electric bus chassis allows any bus coachbuilder to become a full electric bus manufacturer almost overnight. Such is the demand from bus makers wishing to go zero emissions that Equipmake has forged partnerships with companies in Brazil, Argentina and India and grown its UK staff from 15 employees to 52 in a little over two years.

Equipmake certainly seem to be doing something right.

  • They make their own electric motors.
  • They claim to make the world’s most power dense electric motors.

Perhaps, it’s all down to good design?

This paragraph from the press release gives more details of the bus chassis.

Thanks to efficient management of its onboard heating and cooling system, the bus – a 12m single deck model capable of carrying 70 passengers – will have enough electric range for one day’s running without the need for charging. To charge the vehicle, the operator simply needs access to a standard three-phase supply, which will fully charge it in around five hours.

That seems impressive to me!

 

May 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments

Coronavirus: Mercedes F1 To Make Breathing Aid

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

A breathing aid that can help keep coronavirus patients out of intensive care has been created in under a week.

From reading the article it appears that engineers from University College London, clinicians at University College Hospital and production engineers and specialists at Mercedes Formula One have combined to re-engineer and hopefully improve something called a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, which is already used in hospitals and has been used in China and Italy to combat the virus.

The new design would appear to have advantages.

  • It doesn’t need an expensive ventilator.
  • It doesn’t need an intensive care bed.
  • From the pictures and video on a BBC Breakfast report, it looks to be quick and easy to manufacturer.
  • A production rate of a thousand a day is claimed by Mercedes.
  • The BBC Breakfast report also says, that patients don’t need to be sedated.
  • It also looks like the NHS is going to fast-rack the device into use.

Will this rethinking of standard treatment increase hospital capacity and save lives?

I can’t answer the question, but given those behind the device, it must have a better than even chance of being a success!

March 30, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , | 5 Comments

A Comment On The Dyson Ventilator

This comment was posted on this article in The Times talking about ventilators.

I work in ITU- I’m with the dyson option. Ventilators are mostly large cumbersome things complicated devices…. if he delivers in time I have no doubt they’ll be great…& maybe better than what we have now…

We have to assume it’s a genuine comment.

Note that the article gives a good description of a ventilator and how it works. As an engineer, it doesn’t seem to be the most complicated piece of equipment.

Think over the last two hundred years how many radical redesigns of common products have been made, that have changed markets.

  • George Stephenson and the railway.
  • Frank Whittle and the jet engine.
  • Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone
  • Alec Issigonis and the Mini
  • Trevor Baylis and the wind-up radio and wind-up torch.
  • James Dyson and the vacuum cleaner.
  • Transistors and integrated circuits have taken over from electronic valves.
  • Mini computers have taken over from mainframes.
  • Flat screens have taken over from cathode ray tubes
  • On-line systems like auctions. banking and peer-to-peer lending.
  • High speed rail is taking over from short distance flights.

We can all nominate our favourite examples of disruptive innovation.

James Dyson and his team have probably looked at the current design of ventilator and concluded that it is complicated, expensive to make and difficult to use and have come up with a better design, that can be built quickly and easily in large numbers.

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , | 2 Comments

Government Orders 10,000 Ventilators From Dyson

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

It may seem strange to some, that the government has turned to a vacuum cleaner manufacturer to build high-tech medical equipment for the NHS.

But.

  • Look at the quality of the parts on your Dyson vacuum, where they all fit tightly together.
  • I suspect that some of the principles about air-flow in a vacuum, apply to a ventilator.
  • Advanced manufacturing has progressed a lot in recent years and it should be one of Dyson’s strengths.

The BBC are reporting that Dyson is working with The Technology Partnership, an innovation company based in Cambridge.

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , | 3 Comments

UK Electric Van Maker Arrival Secures £340m Order From UPS

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the Guardian.

Arrival seem to be doing things differently, so read the Gaurdian article and their entry on Wikipedia.

This is their mission statement from the web site.

Arrival is a technology company, we create Generation 2 Electric Vehicles. Devices on wheels — they outperform legacy technology to deliver an experience like no other, but are priced the same as fossil fuel equivalents.

They must be doing something right, UPS, Hyundai and Kia have all invested in the company.

Here’s a picture from the Arrival web site.

Arrival is one of those companies, that will either make a fortune and annoy a lot of established companies in the field or end up in serious trouble, as the rivals gang up on them.

 

 

January 30, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , | 1 Comment

Could The Unwanted Class 707 Trains Be Converted To Hydrogen-Power?

South West Trains ordered a fleet of thirty Class 707 trains from Siemens for the route between Waterloo and Windsor and to increase services generally.

However, the new franchise holder; South Western Railway has decided to replace these new trains with new Class 701 trains from Bombardier.

Various reasons have been  put forward for the very early replacement.

  • Lower leasing costs.
  • Lack of toilets on the new trains.
  • The bad reputation with customers of the closely-related Class 700 trains on Thameslink.
  • SWR want a unified fleet.

My observations include.

  •  MTR, who are a partner in SWR and the Crossrail operator, have got good reports of the Crossrail Aventras.
  • SWR have ordered sixty ten-car trains and thirty five-car trains. So perhaps, SWT ordered the wrong mix of trains.

Crossrail 2 will probably use Aventras and it will take over some of SWR’s routes, So is there a degree of future-proofing for Crossrail 2 in the decision to abandon the Class 707 trains.

The Search For A New Operator For The Class 707 Trains

Wikipedia sums up the current situation.

Consequently, Angel Trains is looking for a future operator to lease these trains from 2019.

Will they find one?

The new franchise holder on Southeastern could be a possibility, if they decide to replace all their older units.

This totals to 1,300 carriages. So they would have to buy a lot more trains of the same type to have an easy-to-manage unified fleet.

Buying that number of carriages, you will have to be very sure, that you had the design and the price right!

Northern and Scotrail could have been possible homes, but they have bought substantial numbers of other train manufacturers products.

\st.Pancras to Corby could be a possibility, but I think that route needs a faster train.

So is there a fleet of thirty five-car trains, that just don’t fit what train operating companies want?

The Need For A 100 mph Diesel Multiple Unit Replacement

Currently, there are the following larger DMUs on the UK network with speeds in the range of 90-100 mph.

This totals about 1200 carriages.

Note.

  1. Most are in good condition.
  2. Some are being replaced.
  3. They are run by most train operating companies.
  4. Some run on routes that are partially electrified.
  5. Trains sometimes run in longer formations to increase capacity

This story in City AM is entitled Transport Minister Jo Johnson Calls For Diesel-Only Trains To Be Ditched By 2040 And Fast Rollout Of Hydrogen Train Trials.

So is what Jo Johnson said feasble?

On a rough estimate there must be somewhere between two and four thousand carriages to replace before 2040, with some form of zero-carbon trains powered by batteries, hydrogen or Aunt Jemina’s extra strong knicker elastic.

Replacing four thousand carriages in twenty years is just two hundred a year or just four per week . Given that Bombardier have been quoted as saying that production rates as high as twenty-five carriages a week is possible in a single production line, I don’t think building the trains will be a problem.

|When you develop new or adapt technology in a disruptive way, you must be thorough in your development and testing.

So I think that Jo Johnson has come up with a feasible plan to decarbonise a lot of UK trains.

Lessons From The Alstom Coradia iLint

The world’s first hydrogen-powered train is a version of the Alstom Coradia Lint.

Alstom and Siemens have now merged their transportation interests, so could we be seeing a hydrogen-powered version of the Desiro City, which is the train family to which the Class 707 train belongs?

A hydrogen-powered Class 707 train, would probably be a useful train for a train operating company to have in its fleet.

Perhaps, the current unwanted thirty trains could be converted to dual-voltage hydrogen-powered trains?

Wikipedia gives details on the hydrogen-powered Alstom Coradia iLint.

  • It is two-cars
  • It is based on a successful train.
  • It has a 140 kph operating speed.
  • It has a range of 600-800 kilometres on a tank-full of hydrogen.
  • It also uses a battery to store energy from traditional electrification, generated by hydrogen or from the regenerative braking system.

One of the keys to making it all work, is an intelligent computer system, that optimises energy generation and use according to the route.

A Hydrogen-Powered Class 707 Train

Could a conversion of a Class 707 train be tweaked to have the following performance and features?

  • A 160 kph (100 mph) operating speed on hydrogen.
  • The train already has this speed on electrification.
  • Dual-voltage of 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail.
  • A range on hydrogen in the region of four hundred miles.
  • An interior designed for hundred mile trips, with toilets, wi-fi and power sockets.

The trains would need a substantial rebuild, but probably nothing too radical provided the hydrogen-powered generator, Hydrogen tank and the battery could be fitted in.

In The Formation Of A Class 707 Train, I describe hoe the Class 707 train, is two motored-cars, with three trailer-cars in between. I suspect, that the train can be lengthened or shortened by adding or removing trailer cars.

So could appropriate trailer cars be placed in the middle to create Battery, electric or hydrogen trains?

It very much looks like it!

Possible Routes

This train would be very useful for 100 mph partially-electrified routes.

  • Basimgstoke to Exeter.
  • Brighton to Ashford.
  • London Bridge to Uckfield.
  • Liverpool to Holyhead via the Halton Curve.
  • Leeds to Carlisle via Settle.
  • Newcastle to Carlisle
  • Carlisle to Preston via Barrow and the Cumbrian Coast Line.
  • Blackpool to Leeds via the Calder Valley.
  • Blackburn to Manchester Airport via Todmorden

There are other routes, but most train operating companies have gone for a diesel or bi-mode solution.

Conclusion

I think that a hydrogen-powered Class 707 train is possible.

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Class 158/159 Bi-Modes?

In the March 2018 Edition of Modern Railways, there is a short news item, which is entitled Bi-Mode Study For SWR DMUs.

The Class 158 and Class 159 diesel multiple units used by South Western Railway are diesel-hydraulic units.

Under their franchise aggreement, South Western Railway, agreed to perform a study, to see if the multiple units could be converted from diesel-hydraulic to diesel-electric transmission.

If this is successful, then the plan would be to fit a third-rail capability to the trains, so they could use the electrification between Basingstoke and Waterloo on services to Salisbury and Exeter.

Could the conversion also raise the operating speed of the trains from their current 90 mph to a more timetable-friendly 100 mph?

It looks like it could be a feasible , especially as the article states they might re-use redundant modern traction equipment from Class 455 trains, which are due for replacement.

Disruptive Innovation From Edinburgh

In The Future Of Diesel Trains, I talked about work being done in Edinburgh, by a company called Artemis Intelligent Power, to improve the efficiency of diesel-hydraulic trains.

This is an extract from the original post.

Artemis Intelligent Power has a page about Rail applications on their web-site.

This is the introductory paragraphs to their work.

Whilst electrification has enabled the de-carbonisation of much of the UK’s rail sector, the high capital costs in electrifying new lines means that much of Britain (and the world’s) railways will continue to rely on diesel.

In 2010, Artemis completed a study with First ScotRail which showed that between 64 and 73 percent of a train’s energy is lost through braking and transmission.

In response to this, Artemis began a number of initiatives to demonstrate the significant benefits which digital hydraulics can bring to diesel powered rail vehicles.

Two projects are detailed.

The first is the fitting of a more efficient hydraulic unit, that is described in the Rail Technology Magazine article.

Under a heading of Faster Acceleration, Reduced Consumption, there is a technical drawing with a caption of The Artemis Railcar.

This is said.

We are also working with JCB and Chiltern Railways on a project funded by the RSSB to reduce fuel consumption and improve engine performance by combining highly efficient hydraulic transmission with on board energy storage in the form of hydraulic accumulators, which store energy during braking for reuse during acceleration.

Note.

  1. The use of hydraulic accumulators to provide regenerative braking.
  2. The involvement of JCB, whose construction equipment features a lot of hydraulics.
  3. The involvement of Chiltern Railways, who like their parent company, Deutsche Bahn, have a lot of diesel-hydraulic multiple units and locomotives.

The article goes on to detail, how a test railcar will be running before the end of 2017.

I wonder if Artemis Intelligent Power have ideas for improving the efficiency and creating bi-modes of Class 158 and Class 159 trains?

Could they for instance produce a highly-efficient electrically-driven hydraulic pump, that could be powered by the third-rail electrification, where it is available?

If they can, the advantages of this approach include.

  • The ability to swap from diesel to electric power as required.
  • Regenerative braking could be made available.
  • The trains would still use diesel-hydraulic transmission.

It must surely, be at a lower cost.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Brexit – Signalling Implications For The UK

The title of this post is that of an article on Rail Engineer.

It looks at how rail signalling will be affected by Brexit.

It is an article worth reading.

Remember that signalling is the instructions that keeps a railway functioning, just like the operating system does on your computer.

The article starts like this.

With Britain on a course to leave the EU, how might the plans for signalling (control and communications) be affected? In short, nobody really knows, but a number of factors might now change the policy that had existed hitherto. Not having to comply with EU rules on interoperability, the non-inclusion of TEN routes and the advertising of large contracts in the European Journal might all lead to a different (or modified) approach.

So will it lead to different approach?

I don’t know either, but if you read the article we have gone a long way to creating a signalling system, that is some way along the path to meeting the ultimate EU aims.

ERTMS

The article says this about ERTMS or \European Rail Transport Management System.

ERTMS, and its constituent parts of ETCS and GSM-R, has been a corner stone of European signalling policy for over two decades. Both have taken far too long to come to maturity, with ETCS Level 2 just about at a stable level and GSM-R, whilst rolled out throughout the UK, facing an obsolescence crisis within the next ten years.

ETCS or European Train Control System is not fully deployed, but in the UK, we have made some progress.

  • The Cambrian Line has been equipped as a learning exercise.
  • Significant testing has been performed on the Hertford Loop Line
  • ETCS is being installed and has been tested in the central core of Thameslink.
  • Crossrail will be using ETCS.
  • ETCS is being implemented on the Southern part of the East Coast Main Line.

GSM-R is the communication system from train to signallers.

Looking at this , shows that although the UK fully implemented a GSM-R network by January 2016, not many countries have got as far as the UK.

Surely, you need decent communications to run an efficient and safe railway.

I think it is true to say we’ve not been idle.

The article talks about alternatives and shows a few cases where an alternative approach has been taken.

  • Norwich-Ely and Crewe-Shrewsbury have been resignalled using a modular system.
  • Scotland has decided to go its own way in the Far North.
  • The article talks about CBTC or Commuincations-Based Train Control, which is used on several systems around the world including London’s Jubilee and Northern Lines.

The article also says this about CBTC

The endless committees to discuss and agree how the standards will be implemented do not get in the way. Whilst not suitable for main line usage (at least in the foreseeable future), there could be suburban routes around cities (for example Merseyrail) that could benefit from CBTC deployment.

Could CBTC be a practical system without the bureaucracy?

But these alternatives all smell of pragmatism, where the best system is chosen for a particular line.

But we have one great advantage in that we have imnplemented a comprehensive digital network covering the whole network.

This is no Internet of Things, but an Internet of Trains.

Software

As a computer programmer, I couldn’t leave this out of the signalling recipe.

You can bet your house, that somewhere there are programmers devising solutions to get round our problems.

And they will!

Conclusion

I can’t believe that other industries are not giving the same opportunities to the disruptive innovators of the UK.

Brexit might be good for us, in a surprising way!

Nothing to do with politics or immigration and all to do with innovation!

 

October 11, 2016 Posted by | Computing, Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

The Platform For The Future

The June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways has a section about The Railway Industry Innovation Awards 2016.

One is labelled the Platform for the Future.

That probably sounds rather boring, but I’m a great believer in disruptive technology and using new and innovative methods to replace something that is rather dull, with something that is better, quicker to be installed and get working and more affordable.

This is said.

Abellio Greater Anglia and Dura have pioneered the use of a composite platform at Needham Market station in Suffolk, which was installed in just 36 hours.

This installation might be considered surprising as Needham Market station is a Grade II Listed building. So  it can’t look like.

A monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.

But the product comes with these advantages.

  • The design life is sixty years.
  • A financial saving of 25% is reported.
  • As the platforms are built in a factory, the quality should be tip-top.
  • Other features like Harrington Humps could be built-in.

Hopefully, this would dissuade even the most determined member of the Heritage Taliban from objecting.

There’s more here on the Dura website. There’s also this video, of the platform being installed at Needham Market station.

This is a picture I took from a p[passing train.

The New Platform At Needham Market

It looks good and  who would think it was long-life hard-wearing plastic.

Only members of the Taliban tendency of the Green and Heritage lobbies would probably object!

I think that this product could find lots of applications, in traditional heavy rail, light rail and tramways. Certainly, it could be used to create some of the needed extensions to platforms on the Gospel Oak to Barking Line.

Look at these pictures taken at Harringay Green Lanes station.

Would composite platforms make extending these platforms an easier process?

The company might also have the solution to the dual-height platforms, that some people feel are needed for tram-trains. The Germans certainly use stepped platforms so that different types of tram-trains have step-free access.

In fact, why restrict it to rail applications?

It could be used to provide a disabled viewing platform at somewhere like a horse racecourse or other sporting venue.

Or how about helping to create step-free bus stops, that I wrote about in One Of London’s Step-Free Bus Stops?

One Of London's Step-Free Bus Stops

One Of London’s Step-Free Bus Stops

It’s certainly a very good innovation.

 

June 13, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment