The Anonymous Widower

A Visualisation Of An Alstom Breeze Hydrogen-Powered Train

I have found a visualisation of an Alstom Breeze hydrogen-powered train on Twitter.

Click To View!!

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen For Hydrogen-Powered Trains And Other Vehicles

I have received e-mails worrying about how hydrogen-powered trains and other vehicles, like buses and trucks, will get the fuel they need.

Production Of Hydrogen

There are two major methods of producing large quantities of hydrogen.

Steam Reforming Of Natural Gas

Steam reforming is used to convert natural gas into hydrogen by using high temperature and pressure steam in the presence of a nickel catalyst.

This section in Wikipedia is entitled Industrial Reforming, says this.

Steam reforming of natural gas is the most common method of producing commercial bulk hydrogen at about 95% of the world production of 500 billion m3 in 1998. Hydrogen is used in the industrial synthesis of ammonia and other chemicals. At high temperatures (700 – 1100 °C) and in the presence of a metal-based catalyst (nickel), steam reacts with methane to yield carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

It gives this chemical equation for the reaction.

CH4 + H2O ⇌ CO + 3 H2

I have two questions about steam reforming.

  • How much fossil fuel energy is needed to create the high temperatures and pressures to make the process work?
  • What happens to the carbon monoxide (CO)? Is it burnt to provide heat, thus producing more carbon dioxide (CO2)?

I therefor question the use of steam reforming to produce hydrogen for vehicles, especially, as a system might be required  to be installed in a train, bus or freight depot.

The only time, where steam reforming could be used, is where an existing refinery producing large quantities of hydrogen by the process is close the point of use.

Electrolysis Of Water Or Brine

It is fifty years, since I worked in the chlorine-cell rooms of ICI’s Castner-Kellner chemical complex at Runcorn.

The process used was the Castner-Kellner Process and this is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry.

The Castner–Kellner process is a method of electrolysis on an aqueous alkali chloride solution (usually sodium chloride solution) to produce the corresponding alkali hydroxide, invented by American Hamilton Castner and Austrian Karl Kellner in the 1890s.

Brine from Cheshire’s extensive salt deposits is electrolysed using a graphite anode and a mercury cathode to produce chlorine, hydrogen, sodium hydroxide and sodium metal.

Large amounts of electricity are needed, but the biggest problem is the poisonous mercury used in the process.

My work incidentally concerned measuring the mercury in the air of the plant.

Since the 1960s, the technology has moved on, and ICI’s successor INEOS, still produces large quantities of chlorine at Runcorn using electrolysis.

More environmentally-friendly processes such as membrane cell electrolysis are now available, which produce chlorine, hydrogen and sodium hydroxide.

In the 1960s, the production of chlorine and hydrogen was a 24/7 process and I would suspect that INEOS have a good deal to use electricity from wind and other sources in the middle of the night.

The Future Of Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a clean fuel, that when it burns to produce heat or is used in a fuel cell to produce electricity, only produces steam or water.

There is also a lot of research going into hydrogen fuel-cells, hydrogen storage and batteries, and some of this will lead to innovative use of hydrogen as a fuel.

As an example, there is a growing market for fuel-cell forklifts. The first one was built in 1960, so fifty years from idea to fulfilment seems about right.

How many other applications of hydrogen will be commonplace in ten years?

  • City buses
  • Local delivery vans for companies like Royal Mail and UPS.
  • Taxis
  • Refuse trucks

I also think, some surprising applications will emerge driven by the need to clean up the air in polluted cities.

Ideally, these applications will need a hydrogen filling station at the depot.

Modern electrolysis technologies should lead to the development of  simple cells, for the electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen.

Powered by renewable energy sources or nuclear, this technology could be used to create zero-carbon hydrogen at the point of use.

Diesel Or Hydrogen?

The diesel engine in a New Routemaster bus is a Cummins diesel with these characteristics.

  • 4.5 litre
  • 138 kW
  • 400 Kg

So how much would a 150 kW fuel-cell weigh?

A Ballard FCveloCity-HD, which is capable of producing 100 kW, weighs around 300 Kg.

I feel that as hydrogen and battery technology improves, that more and more city vehicles will be hydrogen-powered.

Hyundai Launch A Hydrogen-Powered Truck

This page on the Hyundai web site is entitled Hyundai Motor Presents First Look At Truck With Fuel Cell Powertrain.

It will be launched this year and looks impressive. Other articles say they have tied up with a Swiss fuel-cell manufacturer called H2 Power and aim to sell a thousand hydrogen-powered trucks in Switzerland.

 

 

 

January 14, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

Comparing A Class 769 Train With An Alstom Breeze

Who’d have thought that two thirty-year-old British Rail-era electrical multiple units, would be fighting in the same market for bi-mode trains to replace diesel multiple units?

Class 319 Train

Class 319 trains started life as four-car dual-voltage  electrical multiple units for Thameslink and Porterbrook are now converting them into four-car electro-diesel multiple units, which have been given the TOPS classification of Class 769 trains.

Class 321 Train

Class 321 trains started life as four-car 100 mph electrical multiple units for East Anglia and Eversholt and Alstom are now converting them into hydrogen-powered multiple units, which have been given the name of Breeze.

So how does a Class 769 compare with an Alstom Breeze?

Ability To Work Using Electrification

This article on Rail Engineer, which is all about the Class 769 train, is entitled Bi-Mode Good, Tri-Mode Better.

The title says it all about the ability to work from three different power sources.

  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification
  • 750 VDC third-rail electrification
  • Onboard power from two diesel generators.

This must have impressed Great Western Railway as they’ve ordered nineteen trains.

Nothing has been directly said, about whether an Alstom Breeze can use electrification, but as the partially-electrified Liverpool to Chester route has reportedly been chosen as a test route, I would think, that the ability to use electrification is very likely.

Operating Speed

In the Rail Engineer article, this is said about the operating speed of a Class 769 train.

Modelling has shown the gradient balancing speed on a flat gradient when powered by the diesel engines to be approximately 87 mph and the trains will retain the 100 mph capability when powered by electricity.

Alstom are claiming 87 mph on hydrogen power.

Operational Range

My brochure for a Class 769 train, says this about the operational range of the train.

Class 769 could operate the route between Manchester and Buxton and achieve timings equal to a Class 150. The Class 769 unit would have the capacity to make five return trips per day for two days before refuelling is required.

This is a total of about 540 km on a route, which climbs three hundred metres with twelve stops.

Alstom quote the Breeze as having a range of a thousand km. But over what sort of terrain!

This doesn’t appear to be an equal comparison.

So perhaps the Buxton trials should be undertaken!

Refuelling

The Class 769 train runs partially on diesel fuel, which makes the train easy to refuel.

The Alstom Breeze needs a hydrogen supply, which can either be sourced from a piped or tanked supply or a local hydrogen generator.

I believe that as Alstom are going down the hydrogen route, at least on a Europe-wide basis, that the provision of hydrogen, will not be a large problem.

Passenger Capacity

When they were built, I suspect that as both trains had a lot of 2+3 seating, that the capacity of both trains was very similar.

My brochure for a Class 769 train shows a suggested layout with 12 First Class seats, 255 Standard Class seats and a Universal Access Toilet.

In Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead, I estimated that a three-car Alstom Breeze would have a seating capacity of around 140 seats, with the ability to perhaps take an additional 160 standees.

I also believe that longer versions of Alstom Breezes are possible, with the addition of trailer cars. I estimate capacities, which would include standees could be.

  • Four-car – 450 passengers
  • Five-car – 600 passengers

Both Class 769 trains and Alstom Breezes would appear to have sufficient capacity for typical routes.

Noise Signature

I have not heard either train in action, as neither is in service yet.

This article on Rail Engineer is entitled Class 769 In Action.

This is an extract talking about the noise and vibration of a Class 769 train.

There was no need to worry; just walking through the car park with the train alongside was a revelation. The two idling MAN diesel engines were almost purring; none of the ‘rattling’ that one is used to from older diesels and no visible exhaust either. A conversation at normal volume was easily possible, sitting on the benches outside the café just four metres away from the train.

As to the Alstom Breeze, it is likely to be a near-silent train, if my rides in battery-powered trains are anything to go by.

Carbon Footprint

The Alstom Breeze has a zero carbon footprint, whereas the Class 769 train will produce some carbon dioxide, as it’s partially diesel-powered.

The Alstom Breeze has the possibility of running using hydrogen produced by a zero carbon method, such as the electrolysis of water or brine using electricity from a renewable source such as geothermal, solar, water or wind power.

Recycling Credentials

Both trains effectively recycle existing trains, that would otherwise be scrapped or sold off to an operator in the Developing World.

Conclusion On Comparison

Both trains have their good points and both should find a niche market in the UK, as the Class 769 train already has with four orders for a total of thirty-nine trains.

The Future

In addition, the Alstom Breeze is a demonstrator for the company’s hydrogen technology in a train for a UK-sized rail network.

I would not be surprised, if the Breeze is successful, to see Alstom develop a family of trains based on the technology.

They would have the following characteristics.

  • Flexible length and capacity.
  • Modern aluminium construction.
  • Modern well-designed interiors with everything passengers, operators and staff want and need.
  • 100 mph on hydrogen and electrification
  • Efficient hydrogen generation and refuelling stations
  • Availability in various gauges.

I can also envisage a complete package being offered to railways in a country like Ireland or New Zealand, to run hydrogen-powered trains on a route that is currently not electrified.

By good design, I feel that the only difference between standard, Irish and narrow gauge versions would be a change of bogie.

The Gazelle In The Wings

Bombardier are proposing a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra, which I talked about in Bombardier Bi-Mode Aventra To Feature Battery Power.

Bombardier obviously have extensive mathematical models of the Aventra and just as this has led to a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra, I believe that if it is possible, Bombardier will propose a bi-mode train with the following characteristics.

  • Flexible length and capacity.
  • Small diesel engine and batteries
  • 100 mph on both diesel and electric power.
  • Level floor
  • Almost silent operation.

There will be plenty of applications for this bi-mode train.

It is interesting to note, that Bombardier have dismissed hydrogen as a fuel.

Could it be, that their modelling has shown, that the large tanks for hydrogen make a new-build hydrogen-powered bi-mode train an unviable proposition?

Diesel on the other hand is a much more convenient fuel.

Conclusion

It is going to be an interesting fight between, diesel and hydrogen bi-modes to determine the future of the rail industry.

It is a tribute to the much-maligned British Rail, that the first major battle between the two fuels is being fought using rebuilt thirty-year-old trains built by British Rail Egineering Limited.

Which fuel will win?

Some applications will be ideal for hydrogen and others will need diesel.

But as battery technology improves and electrification increases, it is likely that the need for hydrogen and diesel will decrease.

 

January 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen Trains Ready To Steam Ahead

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in today’s copy of The Times.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Hydrogen trains will be introduced in as little as two years under ambitious plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

The trains, which are almost silent and have zero emissions, will operate at speeds of up to 90 mph and release steam only as a by-product. The new trains, which will be called “Breeze” will be employed on commuter and suburban lines by early 2021.

From the article and other published sources like Wikipedia, I can say the following.

Train Formation

The formation of some of the current Class 321 trains is as follows.

DTSO(A)+TSO+MSO+DTSO(B)

Note.

  1. The two DTSO cars are identical and are Driving Trailer Standard Open cars.
  2. The TSO car is a Trailer Standard Open car.
  3. The MSO car is a Motor Standard Open, which contains the four traction motors, the pantograph and all the electrical gubbins.

The refurbished Class 321 Renatus train has a new AC traction system.

In the past, the Trailer car has been removed from some of these trains, to make a three-car Class 320 train, which has this formation.

DTSO(A)+MSO+DTSO(B)

The Times says this about the formation of the hydrogen trains.

New images released by Alstom show that the existing four-carriage 321s will be reduced to three as part of the conversion process, which will be carried out at the company’s plant in Widnes, Cheshire. The front and rear third of the train will be used to house hydrogen gas storage tanks.

It would appear to me that Alstom have decided to go down a route based on the proven Class 320 train.

The TSO car will be removed and the existing or re-tractioned MSO car will be sandwiched between two rebuilt DTSO cars containing large hydrogen tanks and the hydrogen fuel cells to generate the electricity to power the train.

Although, Alstom’s pictures show a three-car train, I can’t see any reason, why a four-car train would not be possible, with the addition of a TSO car.

The train would obviously need to have enough power.

But then a standard Class 321 train is no wimp with a 100 mph operating speed and one MW of power, which is a power level not far short of the 1.68 MW of a modern four-car Class 387 train.

The MSO Car

You could almost consider that a Class 321 train is an MSO car, with a Driving Trailer car on either side and an extra Trailer car to make a four-car train.

In an original Class 321 train, the MSO car has the following.

  • Two motored bogies, each with two traction motors.
  • A pantograph on the roof to pick up the 25 KVAC overhead power.
  • A transformer and the other electrical gubbins.

This picture shows the side view of an MSO car in an unmodified Class 321 train.

It does appear to be rather full under the MSO car, but I suspect, that modern AC equipment will take up less space. Although, the air-conditioning will have to be squeezed in.

Some if not all cars are labelled as PMSO, to indicate they have the train’s pantograph.

British Rail designed a lot of Mark 3 coach-based Electric Multiple Units like this, with a power car in the middle and trailer cars on either side. For instance, the legendary Class 442 train, is of five cars, with all the traction motors and electrical gear in the middle car. It still holds the speed record for third-rail-powered trains. British Rail certainly got the dynamics right.

The upgraded Class 321 Renatus trains have a new AC traction system.

  • This will be state-of-the-art, more efficient and probably more reliable.
  • New traction motors handle regenerative braking.

But is it more powerful than the original system?

If it was, it would give better acceleration.

This modern traction system will probably be a starting point for the electrical system of a hydrogen-powered Class 321 train.

It would have to be able to accept electrical power from the following sources.

  • The pantograph, when connected to the 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • The two Driving Trailer Standard Open cars with their hydrogen tanks and fuel-cells..

The voltages will probably be different, but this should not be a problem for a modern well-designed electrical system.

Batteries And Regenerative Braking

The Times has a graphic, which shows a part-cutaway of the train.

There is an arrow and explanation labelled Traction System, where this is said.

Ensures appropriate energy is transmitted between fuel cell and battery. Drives wheels and collects energy during braking.

I would suspect that a single battery would be placed in the MSO car, so that the battery could be close to the traction motors under the car.

Battery Size Calculation

The battery should be big enough to handle the energy generated when braking from the train’s maximum speed.

Obviously, Alstom have not disclosed the weight of the train, but a three-car Class 320 train, which is a Class 321 train without the trailer car,  weighs 114.5 tonnes and has 213 seats. So I suspect that because of the hydrogen tanks, there will be about 140 seats in the hydrogen-powered train. So could it hold 300 passengers with the addition of standees?

I don’t know how much a hydrogen tank weighs, but I suspect it is more bulky than heavy.

Fuel cells of the required size, seem to weigh in the order of hundreds of kilograms rather than tonnes.

So I think I will assume the following for my kinetic energy calculation.

  • A 200 tonne train
  • 300 passengers at 90 Kg each with baggage, bikes and buggies.
  • A speed of 87 mph.

This gives a 227 tonne train, when fully loaded.

Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator gives a kinetic energy of just under 50 kWh.

So this amount of energy will be needed to accelerate the train to the operating speed and could be substantially recovered at a station stop from the operating speed.

As the train will also need hotel power for doors, air-conditioning and other train systems, a battery of perhaps around 100 kWh would give enough power.

Obviously, Alstom will have done a complete computer simulation, they will have much better and more accurate figures.

As 50 kWh traction batteries are of the size of a large suitcase, I doubt there would be a problem putting enough battery capacity in the MSO car.

Obviously, these are very rough calculations, but it does appear that with modern lightweight tanks, hydrogen trains are feasible, with readily-available components.

But then Alstom have already converted a Coradia Lint to hydrogen power.

Will The Train Be A Series Hybrid?

In a series hybrid, like a New Routemaster bus, the vehicle is driven by an electric motor, powered by a battery, which in the case of the bus is charged by a small diesel engine. Braking energy is also recycled to the battery.

In Alstom’s Breeze train, the traction motors in the MSO car would be connected to the battery.

When the power in the battery is low, the train’s computer will top up the battery from the overhead electrification, if it is available or use the hydrogen fuel cells.

I suspect the computer would always leave enough spare capacity in the battery to accommodate the energy generated during braking.

Passenger Capacity and Range

I have estimated that the passenger capacity of the train is around three hundred.

This picture from Alstom, shows a side view of one DTSO car of the train.

The windows, probably denote the size of the passenger compartment. So instead of having the capacity of a three-car train, it probably only carries that of a two-car train.

Compare this visualisation with a picture of an unmodified DTSO car.

There’s certainly a lot of space under the DTSO car, which I’m sure Alstom will use creatively. Can the fuel cells fit underneath?

From the cutaway view of the proposed train in The Times, it would appear that the section behind the driving compartment is occupied by the hydrogen tank.

The hydrogen fuel cells or at least their vents are on the roof at the back end of the car.

The Times gives the range of the train as in excess of 625 miles.

To put this into context, the Tyne Valley Line has a length of sixty miles, so a train could do at least five round trips between Newcastle and Carlisle without refuelling.

It’s certainly no short-range trundler!

I deduce from the extreme range quoted by The Times, that Alstom’s Breeze is an extremely efficient train and probably a series hybrid.

If the train is very efficient, that could mean, that there is the possibility to use smaller tanks to increase the train’s passenger capacity to fit a particular route better.

Use Of The Pantograph

All the articles published today don’t say anything about the pantograph.

But I can’t see any reason, why when 25 KVAC overhead electrification exists, it couldn’t be used.

Being able to use available electrification is also a great help in positioning trains before and after, trains  perform their daily schedule.

750 VDC Operation

British Rail did get a lot of things right and one was that nearly all of their electrical multiple units could work or be modified to work on both forms of electrification in the UK; 25 KVAC overhead and 750 VDC third-rail.

So I believe that a 750 VDC version of Alstom’s Breeze will be possible.

A Replacement For A Two-Car Diesel Multiple Unit

There are large numbers of two-car diesel multiple units in the UK.

All would appear to have a similar passenger capacity to Alstom’s Breeze.

Some though will be converted into more efficient diesel-battery hybrids.

But there will still be a sizeable number of replacements, where the Breeze will be suitable.

The Breeze will have a major advantage, if as I expect, it has the ability to run using 25 KVAC or 750 VDC electrification.

It will be able to work routes that are partially electrified.

Possible Routes

The Times says this about possible routes.

Although the company refused to be drawn on the destination of the new trains, it is believed that they could be used on unelectrified lines in the north-west or north-east.

It is worth looking at the location of Alstom’s factory in Widnes, where the Class 321 trains will be converted. This Google Map shows the area.

Note.

  1. The main railway between Liverpool and Crewe running across the top of the map and then crossing the River Mersey to go South.
  2. The Alstom factory is shown by a red arrow in the North-West corner of the map.

Not shown on the map, as it is just to the South on the South Bank of the Mersey, is INEOS’s massive Castner-Kellner works, which is a major producer of hydrogen, as it was when I worked there in the late 1960s.

I doubt that Alstom will be short of hydrogen to test the new trains.

Alstom and INEOS could even build a pipeline across the Mersey.

The Liverpool and Crewe Line is electrified and recently, the Halton Curve has been upgraded to form a new route between Liverpool and Chester via Runcorn, Frodsham and Helsby.

The Wikipedia entry for the Halton Curve has a section called Hydrogen Fuel Cell Train Trials, where this is said.

The Chester to Liverpool line via the Halton Curve is proposed for a trial by Alstom of their zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell trains. The line was chosen as Alstom’s new technology facility is at Halebank on the Liverpool border adjacent to the line, with hydrogen supplied via the nearby Stanlow refinery.

I should say, that I personally prefer the INEOS route for hydrogen, where it is a by-product of the electrolysis of brine, which is mainly to produce chlorine. Even in the 1960s, ICI performed a lot of production at night to take advantage of more affordable electricity.

The other route that goes close to Alstom’s factory is the Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester route via Warrington.

Increasing Capacity

I believe that effectively two-car trains with a capacity of 300 passengers,running between say the cities of Liverpool and Chester would not be large enough.

The current Class 321 trains are four-car trains and the conversion to Alstom’s Breeze trains, will result in the removal of the Trailer car, which contains the toilet.

The power of the MSO car in the current Class 321 trains is 1,000 kW.

During the conversion for use in Alstom’s Breeze trains, the power system will be updated.

  • Four new AC traction motors will be fitted.
  • A battery to store electricity and handle regenerative braking will be fitted. I estimated earlier, that this could be at least 100 kWh.
  • The ability to connect to the hydrogen fuel cells in the two updated Driving Trailer Standard Open cars will be fitted.

I also suspect a well-designed computer control system will be added.

As a time-expired Control Engineer, I believe that the updated MSO car can be designed to deliver any amount of power between say 1,000 kW and 1,600 kW.

Alstom will obviously know, how much power will be needed to accelerate their proposed three-car train to the operating speed of 87 mph.

Four-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

Suppose though that the trailer car was also updated and added to the train.

  • The weight would rise to 223 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 450.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 55 kWh.

Provided the MSO car is powerful enough, a four-car Alstom Breeze would appear to be feasible.

Five-Car Alstom Breeze Trains

What would the sums look like for a five-car Alstom Breeze.

  • Two trailer cars would be added.
  • The weight would rise to 246 tonnes.
  • Passenger capacity would rise to 600.
  • Maximum kinetic energy at 87 mph, would rise to 63 kWh.

With the priviso of the power of the MSO car, it certainly looks like a five-car Alstom Breeze could be feasible.

It looks like at least three different sizes of train are possible.

  • Three-car – 300 passengers
  • Four-car – 450 passengers
  • Five-car – 600 passengers

Only three different types of car will be needed.

  • Driving Trailer Standard Open – DTSO – With hydrogen tanks and hydrogen fuel cells and less seating than in the current trains.
  • Motor Standard Open – MSO – With new AC power system and a battery.
  • Trailer Standard Open – TSO – With seats and possibly a Universal Access Toilet, bike racks or a buffet.

Note.

  1. All DTSO would be more-or-less identical, but some might have larger tanks and more fuel-cells.
  2. All MSO cars would be identical.
  3. TSO cars would be specified by the customer and could be tailored to a particular route.

The train’s computer, would automatically determine what train had been assembled and adjust power settings and displays accordingly.

Suppose four Class 321 trains were to be converted to Alstom Breezes.

You could end up with.

  • Four three-car trains.
  • Four spare Trailer Standard Open cars.

Or.

  • Four four-car trains.

Or.

  • Two three-car trains.
  • Two five-car trains

The permutations are endless.

It is an infinitely flexible system, which can produce trains of a variety of lengths.

I would suspect that Eversholt will want customers to take complete trains, to maximise their returns and not end up with too many orphaned trailer cars.

Are There Any Spare Trailer Cars?

I ask this question, as in the last few years, twelve four-car Class 321 trains, have been converted to three-car Class 320 trains. As part of this process the trailer car is removed.

I would assume the twelve trailer cars have been put into store.

Could they be used to create five-car Alstom Breeze trains?

Will Alstom Breeze Trains Work In Multiple?

Class 321 trains can do this and I suspect that the Alstom Breezes will have the capability.

But it will probably be mainly for train recovery, than general operation.

Although, running two shorter trains as a longer one, is always useful, when there is a large sporting or other event happening.

Manufacturing

Alstom’s design eases the conversion.

Each type of car has its own manufacturing process,

Driving Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all DTSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The driving compartment is updated.
  • The hydrogen tank is added behind the driving compartment.
  • The hydrogen fuel cells are added, with vents on the roof.
  • The new interior with seats is fitted behind the hydrogen tank and fuel cells.
  • No work would need to be done to the bogies, except that needed for maintenance.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All DTSO cars would be treated in the same manner, although some might have smaller hydrogen tanks and detailed differences due to customer preferences and route needs.

Motor Standard Open

This would need to be done to all MSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The electrical equipment is replaced with the new AC system with a battery.
  • The bogies would be fitted with the new AC traction motors.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All MSO cars would probably be treated in the same manner.

Trailer Standard Open

This would need to be done to all TSO cars.

  • The car is checked, cleaned and externally refurbished.
  • The seats and most of the interior is removed.
  • The new interior is fitted.
  • Finally, the new livery would be applied.

All TSO cars would probably be treated in a similar manner, but the interior fitment would depend on the customer’s requirements.

This picture shows a side view of an unmodified TSO car.

There is certainly a lot of space underneath the car.

I wonder if Alstom have any plans for using this space?

Summing Up Manufacturing

The process for the three types of cars is very similar and is very typical of the work regularly done to give mid-life updates to trains in the UK.

Alstom’s Widnes factory has already performed a major upgrade to Virgin Trains’ Pendelinos and I doubt that the work will hold many terrors for the factory, if the design phase is good.

Train Testing

So many train projects have been let down recently, by the lack of suitable test facilities and poorly-planned testing.

The Halton Curve route between Liverpool and Chester would appear to be an ideal route to test the trains.

  • Liverpool Lime Street station has recently been upgraded in size.
  • Chester station is not busy.
  • The route is about forty miles long.
  • I estimate that trains will take about forty minutes
  • The route passes Alstom’s factory in Widnes.
  • The route is about half-electrified, between Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn.
  • Access is good to the North Wales Main Line for long range testing.

Running on both electrification and hydrogen can be tested with a changeover at Runcorn station.

A Liverpool to Chester service would go through the following sequence.

  • Arrive at Runcorn station, after running from Liverpool using existing 25 KVAC electrification.
  • Drop the pantograph.
  • Continue towards Chester on hydrogen power.

The sequence would be reversed in the opposite direction.

I don’t believe Alstom could want for a better test route.

I can only see one major problem.

Liverpudlians are a curious breed and I predict they will turn up in droves at a new attraction in their midst.

Conclusion

I very much feel that by using hydrogen tanks in the two driving cars Alstom have created a pragmatic flexible design, that will prove if hydrogen trains are a viable proposition for the UK.

Things that I particularly like.

  • The first trains being two-car DMU-sized.
  • The ability to use electrified lines.
  • The extraordinary range.
  • The performance.
  • Trains of different length and capacity can be created from three different car types.
  • The testing process.

But I have my doubts that the initial train has enough capacity.

Although I suspect that it could be increased by adding one or more trailer cars.

 

 

 

January 8, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Axed Rail Routes May Be Reopened Under New Department for Transport Plans

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

The Department for Transport has confirmed it is actively working with a number of groups to explore the possibility of reopening old rail routes, axed under the so-called Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

It follows a call by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling a year ago, encouraging those in the public and private sector to submit proposals for potential projects to regenerate old lines.

It also quotes a Department of Transport spokesman.

This is on top of exploring reopening the Northumberland Line for passenger use, supporting the reinstatement of stations on the Camp Hill Line, developing new rail links to Heathrow and a new station at Cambridge South

He apparently, didn’t say more because of confidentiality.

The article then talks about the success of the Borders Railway in Scotland.

So is this just a good news story for Christmas or is there a plan to reopen old railway lines?

I feel that a several factors are coming together, that make the reopening of railway lines and the creation of new ones more likely.

Digital Signalling

Signalling is expensive, but where you have rolling stock to a high modern standard, with digital in-cab signalling, does this mean that new or reopened rail lines can be built without conventional signalling?

In addition, installing digital signalling on some routes, would probably make it easier to add a new station. Surely, it must just be a reprogramming of the route!

It could be a problem that, I would expect that on a digitally-signalled line, all trains must be capable of using it. But in many areas of the country, like East Anglia, these routes will be run by new trains.

Digital signalling must also make it easier to design more efficient single-track railways, with perhaps a passing loop to allow higher frequencies.

More Efficient Track Construction

Network Rail and their contractors and suppliers are getting better and more efficient at building track and bridges through difficult terrain and places, judging by some of their construction in recent years, such as the Acton Dive-Under and the Ordsall Chord. They have also overseen some notable successes in the refurbishment of viaducts and tunnels.

It should also be noted that the reopening of the Borders Railway was a successful project in terms of the engineering and was completed on budget and on time.

According to Wikipedia, though there was criticism of the infrastructure.

This is said.

The line’s construction has been described as resembling a “basic railway” built to a tight budget and incorporating a number of cost-saving features, such as using elderly two-carriage diesel trains and running the line as single track.

But looking back on the line from over three years since it opened, it has certainly been judged by many to be an undoubted success.

Would it have had the same level of success, if it had been built as a double-track electrified railway?

Single-Track Lines

The Borders Railway is a good example of an efficient single-track railway, that runs a half-hourly service.

Other routes like the East Suffolk Line and the Felixstowe Branch Line, show how good design can handle more than the most basic levels of traffic, with perhaps selective double track or a well-placed passing loop.

They may be dismissed by rail purists as basic railways, but when well-designed, they are able to provide the service that is needed along the route, for a construction cost that is affordable.

I would though advocate, that if a new single-track railway is built, that provision is made where possible to be able to add the second track. But not at too great an expense or to provide a service level that will never be needed.

I believe that good design of a new railway can cut the construction cost by a fair amount.

Single-Platform Stations

Several of the new stations built in recent years have been stations with only a single-platform.

  • Cranbrook – A station in Devon on the West of England Main Line to serve a new housing development.
  • Ebbw Vale Parkway – A parkway station in Ebbw Vale.
  • Galashiels – A station, that handled 356,000 passengers last year. It is a unique station on a narrow site, that shares facilities with a large bus station on the other side of the road. It is a very functional transport interchange.
  • James Cook – A basic but practical station, that serves the hospital in Middlesbrough. – It cost just over £2million in 2014.
  • Newcourt – A £4million station handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Pye Corner – A basic station in Newport handling nearly 100,000 passengers per year.

The stations have several common characteristics.

  • They can all handle at least a four-car train.
  • The single-platform is used for services in both directions.
  • Disabled access is either level or by a gently-sloping ramp.

Only James Cook station has a footbridge over the track.

These single-platform stations must cost less, as for instance a footbridge with lifts costs upwards of a million pounds.

Note that of the nine stations on the Borders Railway only three have two platforms.

Single-Platform Terminal Stations

There are also several terminal stations in the UK with only one platform.

  • Aberdare – Handling over 500,000 passengers per year.
  • Aberystwyth – Handling around 300,000 passengers per year.
  • Alloa – Handling around 400,000 passengers per year.
  • Aylesbury Vale Parkway – Handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Blackpool South – Handling over 100,000 passengers per year.
  • Exmouth – Handling nearly a million passengers per year.
  • Felixstowe – Handling around 200,000 passengers per year.
  • Henley-on-Thames – Handling around 800,000 passengers per year.
  • Marlow – Handling nearly 300,000 passengers per year.
  • Merthyr Tydfil – Handling around 500,000 passengers per year.
  • North Berwick – Handling around 600,000 passengers per year.
  • Redditch– Handling over a million passengers per year.
  • Seaford – Handling over 500,000 passengers per year.
  • Shepperton – Handling around 400,000 passengers per year.
  • Sheringham – Handling around 200,000 passengers per year.
  • Walton-on-the-Naze – Handing around 130,000 passengers per year
  • Windsor & Eton Central – Handling nearly two million passengers per year.

Many of these stations have only a single hourly train. whereas Redditch and Windsor & Eton Central stations have three trains per hour (tph).

As a single terminal platform can probably handle four tph, I suspect that most terminals for branch lines could be built with just a single platform.

No Electrification

Chris Grayling has said that the East West Rail Link will be built without electrification.

I wasn’t surprised.

  • Network Rail has a very poor performance in installing electrification.
  • There have been complaints about the visual intrusion of the overhead gantries.
  • Electrification can cause major disruption to road traffic during installation, as bridges over the railway have to be raised.

In addition, I’ve been following alternative forms of low- or zero-carbon forms of train and feel they could offer a viable alternative

Bi-Mode, Hydrogen And Battery-Electric Trains

When the Borders Railway was reopened, unless the line had been electrified, it had to be run using diesel trains.

But in the intervening three years, rolling stock has developed and now a new or reopened railway doesn’t have to be electrified to be substantially served by electric trains.

  • Bi-Mode trains are able to run on both diesel and electric power and Hitachi’s Class 800 trains are successfully in service. They will be shortly joined by Porterbrook’s innovative Class 769 trains.
  • Hydrogen-powered trains have already entered service in Germany and they are being developed for the UK.
  • Battery-electric trains have already been successfully demonstrated in the UK and will enter service in the next few years.

All of these types of train, will be able to run on a new railway line without electrification.

Bi-mode trains are only low-carbon on non-electrified lines, whereas the other trains are zero-carbon.

The trains on the Borders Railway must be prime candidates for replacement with hydrogen-powered or battery-electric trains.

Adding It All Up

Adding up the factors I have covered in this section leads me to conclude that rail developments over the last few years have made it possible to create a new railway line with the following characteristics.

  • An efficient mainly single-track layout.
  • Single-platform stations.
  • A single-platform terminal station capable of handling well upwards of a million passengers per year.
  • Service levels of up to four trains per hour.
  • Zero-carbon operation without electrification.
  • Low levels of visual and noise intrusion.

The new railway will also be delivered at a lower cost and without major disruption to surrounding road and rail routes.

The Need For More Housing And Other Developments

There is a very large demand for new housing and other developments all over the UK.

Several proposed rail projects are about connecting new developments with the rail network.

In London Overground Extension To Barking Riverside Gets Go Ahead, I listed a few developments in London, where developers and their financial backers, were prepared to put up around £20,000 for each house to fund decent rail-based transport links.

Obviously, developments in London are expensive, but with all the new developments, that have been built close to stations in the last few years, I suspect that infrastructure financiers. like Legal and General and Aviva, know how much being by a rail station is worth.

Conclusion

Both public and private infrastructure financiers will take advantage of the good railway and rolling stock engineering, which will mean the necessary rail links to new developments will be more affordable and zero-carbon.

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

A Video Of The Alstom Coradia iLint

This video of the Alstom Coradia iLint has been uploaded to YouTube.

I must go and get a ride!

December 16, 2018 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, we 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 s 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

Funding Nemo: £600m Power Cable Connects UK And Belgium

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

This is the first paragraph.

A £600m cable connecting the UK and Belgium’s energy systems is about to be switched on, becoming the first of a new generation of interconnectors that will deepen the UK’s ties to mainland Europe just as it prepares to leave the EU.

It runs between Richborough in Kent and Zeebrugge in Belgium and is the fifth interconnector to be connected to Great Britain.

Other interconnectors connect to Ireland, Northern Ireland, France and the Netherlands.

In Large Scale Electricity Interconnection, I discuss the rest of the interconnectors, that are being constructed or planned.

We could see up to fifteen in operation in a few years.

As to Nemo, it was originally thought that the UK would be importing energy from Belgium, but as Belgium needs to service its nuclear power stations and will be shutting them in the next few years, the power will sometimes be flowing the other way. Especially, as more large wind farms come on stream in the UK!

It is my view that Icelink could change everything and Belgium’s possible future power shortage, makes Icelink for likely.

Wikipedia describes the interconnector between Iceland and Scotland like this.

At 1000–1200 km, the 1000 MW HVDC link would be the longest sub-sea power interconnector in the world.

As more interconnectors are built between the UK and the Continent, including a possible link between Peterhead in North-East Scotland to Stavanger in Norway, which is called NorthConnect, the UK will begin to look like a giant electricity sub-station, that connects all the zero-carbon power sources together.

  • Denmark will supply wind power.
  • France will supply nuclear power.
  • Iceland will supply hydro-electric and geothermal power.
  • Norway will supply hydro-electric power.
  • The UK will supply nuclear and wind power.

Other sources like wind power from France and Ireland and tidal and wave power from the UK could be added to the mix in the next decade.

The Consequences For Gas

Our use of gas to generate electricity in Western Europe will surely decline.

If projects, like those I discussed in Can Abandoned Mines Heat Our Future?, come on stream to provide heat, the role of gas in providing heating in housing and other buildings will decline in the UK.

We also shouldn’t forget the role of hydrogen, which could also replace natural gas in many applications. It would be created by electrolysis of water or as a by-product of some industrial processes.

Hydrogen could also become a valuable way of storing excess electricity produced by tidal, wave and wind power.

It is unlikely, we will develop a totally gas-free economy, as methane is a valuable chemical feedstock to produce other chemical products we need.

Conclusion

Not many people will be sorry, except for President Putin and a few equally nasty despots in the Middle East.

 

 

 

 

December 7, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arup Called In To Help New Zealand Run Ports And Trains On Hydrogen

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Global Construction Review.

This is the first paragraph.

UK consulting engineer Arup has been brought in to help design and deliver a hydrogen factory for New Zealand’s second largest port. Ports of Auckland said it plans to build a production facility to make the gas from tap water, which it will use to fuel ships, trucks, buses, cars and trains.

It is all part of the aim of making the port of Auckland, zero-carbon by 2040.

I think we’ll see other large self-contained sites like ports, airports, rail container terminals and large industrial complexes using hydrogen, as it may offer advantages over batteries in terms of range, lifting capacity and vehicle size and weight.

There is also no problem with the regular replacement of batteries in equipment like mobile cranes, which in New Zealand’s case will mean importing new ones.

I suspect, hydrogen may be more affordable to run than batteries for Auckland.

 

December 7, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Could Hydrogen Replace Natural Gas In Domestic Properties?

This post was suggested by this article on the Chronicle Live, which is entitled Thousands of Tyneside Homes Could Be Fuelled By Hydrogen Under £22bn Plan.

This is the first three paragraphs.

Thousands of homes across Tyneside and the wider North East could be converted to run on hydrogen in an effort to hit climate change targets.

The H21 North of England report, published today, has called for more than 700,000 homes across Tyneside and Teesside to be converted to run on hydrogen by 2034.

The moves have been proposed by Northern Gas Networks, which supplies gas to the North East, and its North West and Midlands counterpart Cadent, in association with Norwegian energy company Equinor.

It would be feasible to convert houses from natural gas to hydrogen.

In fact, there is a small proportion of hydrogen in natural gas anyway.

But just because it is feasible, it doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

Who Pays?

Consumers would feel, that they shouldn’t pay any more.

Conversion

I remember being converted from town to natural gas in the 1970s.

We only had an ancient gas cooker and conversion was not a problem, but what will happen, if your boiler or cooker is not convertible?

New Technologies

I don’t like gas cookers, so in my current house, I only have a four-year-old modern boiler, so houses like mine wouldn’t be a problem.

Also according to various people, I’ve met, the trend in cookers is to go to induction appliances, which would take a variable out of the conversion equation.

I see lots of new housing and other construction, advertised as low energy, with high insulation levels and solar panels everywhere.

Add in innovative district heating systems and I can see new housing being built without the need of a gas supply.

This must surely be safer, as gas does seems to cause a lot of deaths in homes.

Just Say No!

So what happens, if you say no and your area is being converted to hydrogen?

Do you lose your gas supply?

Creation Of The Hydrogen

This article on the Internet is entitled Northern Gas Networks: One Company’s Ambitious Plan To Cut Carbon Emissions For An Entire Nation.

This is said about the creation of the hydrogen.

The first step is getting access to enough hydrogen. The most widely used method to produce hydrogen is steam-methane reforming, which involves reacting methane (CH4) with high-temperature steam (H2O), which creates carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2). But hydrogen isn’t a clean fuel if that carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere. So the reactor which produces hydrogen will have to be paired with carbon capture and storage, a process where carbon dioxide is captured before it enters the air, and then pumped underground for safe, permanent storage.

Companies, politicians and academics have been waffling on about carbon capture and storage for decades and I believe at the present time, it is one of those technologies, which is akin to burning large numbers of fifty pound notes.

I do think that at some point in the future, a clever chemist will design a chemical plant, where carbon dioxide goes in one end and sheets, rods or components of carbon fibre, graphene or other carbon form come out the other end.

In my view it is much better to not create the carbon dioxide in the first place.

The obvious way is to use surplus wind power to electrolyse water and produce hydrogen. It is a clean process and the only by-product is oxygen, which no-one has yet flagged up as dangerous.

Conclusion

The objective of this project may be laudable, but there is a lot of development and thinking that needs to be done.

 

November 23, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , , | 3 Comments