The Anonymous Widower

Will We See A Phase Out Of Diesel-Mechanical And Diesel-Hydraulic Multiple Units?

After writing My First Ride In A Class 195 Train, I started to think about the future of diesel multiple units.

The Class 195 trains are powered by one MTU diesel engine, with a rating of 390 kW in each car, that drives the wheels through a ZF Ecolife transmission.

It is all very Twentieth Century!

  • Power comes from one diesel engine per car.
  • There is pollution and carbon-dioxide generated outside the train.
  • Noise is generated outside and inside the train.
  • Braking energy is not captured and used to power the train, or stored for reuse.

We can do so much better than this.

The MTU Hybrid PowerPack

MTU have now developed the MTU Hybrid PowerPack.

This page on the MTU web site, is a document, which describes the PowerPack.

It describes the PowerPack as the next generation of railcar drive.

It lists these benefits.

  • Saving fuel through braking energy recovery
  • Significantly reduced emissions through load point optimization
  • Optimizing travel times with the Boost Mode
  • Significant noise reduction
  • Flexible vehicle deployment and simple retrofitting

In some ways the last point is the most significant.

This is said in the document about deployment and retrofitting.

Naturally, rail vehicles with hybrid drive can also be powered
exclusively by the diesel engine. This also means great flexibility
for the operator: The trains can be deployed on both electrified
and non-electrified rail routes. In addition, upgrading to a trimodal*
power system – with an additional pantograph – is easy because
the system is already equipped with an electric motor. This gives
the operator considerable freedom with regard to deployment of
the vehicles – it‘s a big plus when they can respond flexibly in the
future to every route requirement or tender invitation.

It sounds like MTU have really done their thinking.

If you want to read more, there is this document on the Rolls-Royce web-site, which is entitled Hybrid Train Trials.

Note that Rolls-Royce are MTU’s parent company.

A Simple Trimodal Example

I will give one simple example of where the trimodal technology pf the MTU Hybrid PowerPack, could be used, to great advantage.

Southern have two routes, where they have to use diesel Class 171 trains

  • Eastbourne and Ashford International (42% electrified)
  • London Bridge and Uckfield (45% electrified)

Porterbrook are planning to fit MTU Hybrid PowerPacks to Class 170 trains, as I wrote about in Rolls-Royce And Porterbrook Launch First Hybrid Rail Project In The UK With MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.

As the Class 171 train is very similar to the Class 170 train, I would suspect that Class 171 trains can be converted to diesel hybrids using MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.

It would be very useful, if they could be converted into tri-mode trains, by the addition of third-rail shoe gear.

This would mean, that the two routes run by the Class 171 trains, could be run on electricity for st least 40-45 percent of the route.

I would also think, that adding third-rail shoe gear to a diesel multiple unit, like a Class 171 train, could be easier than adding a pantograph.

When you consider that Southern have twenty Class 171 trains, with a total of fifty-six cars and conversion would therefore need fifty-six MTU Hybrid PowerPacks, this would not be a trivial order for MTU, that could bring substantial benefit to Southern.

I suspect new bi-mode or battery/electric trains would be less good value, than converting trains with MTU Hybrid PowerPacks, in many applications.

Other Technologies

Already other companies and research organisations are getting involved in developing affordable solutions to convert redundant diesel multiple units into more environmentally-friendly and energy efficient trains.

We have also seen train operating companies in a wider sense, buying trains that can easily be updated to zero-carbon trains.

Benefits Of Conversion To Diesel-Hybrid

I believe that conversion to diesel hybrid trains, using MTU Hybrid PowerPacks or similar technologies,  could be advantageous in other ways, in addition to the obvious ones of less noise and pollution.

  • Train operating companies would not need to greatly change their support infrastructure.
  • Driver retraining would probably be a short conversion course.
  • More partially-electrified routes would be possible with efficient modern trains.

I also feel, that if we can convert diesel-mechanical and diesel-hydraulic trains into trains with the ability to use either 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification, this will open up possibilities to create new partially-electrified routes in places, where electrification is either too difficult, too expensive or is opposed by protests.

Trains That Could Be Converted

These trains are ones that can possibly be converted to diesel hybrid trains.

Turbostars

As I said earlier Porterbrook are already planning to convert some of their numerous Class 170 trains to diesel hybrid operation using MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.

Turbostars are a class of diesel trains.

The picture shows a Class 170 train in ScotRail livery, at Brough station, working a service for Northern.

  • They have a 100 mph top speed.
  • They come in two, three or four car sets.
  • They were built between 1996 and 2011.
  • They have a comfortable interior and passengers only complain, when say a Class 170 train is replaced by a Class 156 or even older train.
  • There are a total of 196 Turbostars in various classes.

This description from Wikip[edia, details their drive system.

Much of the design is derived from the Networker Turbo Class 165 and Class 166 trains built by British Rail Engineering Limited’s Holgate Road carriage works. Notable features shared are the aluminium alloy frame and two-speed Voith T211r hydrodynamic transmission system. The diesel engine has changed to an MTU 6R 183TD. A cardan shaft links the output of the gearbox to ZF final drives on the inner bogie of each vehicle. The engine and transmission are situated under the body; one bogie per car is powered, the other bogie unpowered.

It is simple system and well suited to replacement with the MTU Hybrid PowerPack.

As I said earlier, some Turbostars run over partially-electrified routes.

I also said that two of Southern’s routes are partially-electrified with the 750 VDC third-rail system, so could we see some examples making use of this to create a trimodal version.

On the other hand fitting a pantograph for 25 KVAC overhead electrification could be difficult. Although, all  British Rail designs and their derivatives were usually designed, so they could work with every type of K electrification.

Class 165 And Class 166 Trains

The Class 165 and Class 166 trains are the predecessors of the Turbostars, and the later trains share a lot of their features.

As with all British Rail train designs, they have Japanese Knotweed in their DNA and engineers continuously find profitable ways of not sending them to the scrapyard. So they’ll be around for a few years yet!

The owner of these trains; Angel Trains has started a development project to create the Class 165 Hydrive train, which I wrote about in Class 165 Trains To Go Hybrid.

Will we see another hundred or so diesel hydraulic trains in good condition converted to more environmentally-friendly diesel hybrid trains?

Class 195 And Class 196 Trains

The Class 195 and Class 196 trains are still in the process of being built and judging by my first experience of Northern’s Class 195 train, that I wrote about in My First Ride In A Class 195 Train, they would benefit from the fitting of a quieter hybrid drive, like an MTU Hybrid PowerPack.

I suspect that any follow on orders for CAF’s diesel trains could well be built as diesel hybrids.

  • The MTU Hybrid PowerPack could be used to replace the MTU engine and ZF Ecolife transmission.
  • A battery-electric transmission, perhaps even using bogies and traction motors from the Class 331 train, could be developed.

Consider.

  • Building the train around a hybrid transmission, will be probably no more difficult, than building one with a mechanical transmission.
  • The train would create less noise and pollution.
  • Hybrid trains would probably be more marketable to prospective purchasers. See Hybrid Selling.

As CAF are the only manufacturer of new diesel trains in the UK, I don’t think, they will be bothered.

Class 175 Trains

Transport for Wales have a fleet of eleven two-car and sixteen three-car Class 175 trains and they are scheduled to be replaced by a series of new trains starting in 2021.

I suspect the conversion to diesel hybrid will be possible, but even with a full interior refurbishment, will anybody have need for them, as there are already a lot of new 100 mph diesel trains on order, many of which could be delivered as diesel hybrids.

Class 180 Trains

There are fourteen five-car Class 180 trains.

They are 125 mph trains.

The fact that Hull Trains are replacing their Class 180 trains with new Class 802 trains, probably says a lot about the limitations of Class 180 trains.

Conclusion

We will be seeing a lot of hybrid trains, made by updating diesel-mechanichal and diesel-hydraulic trains.

July 17, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Tender Set To Be Issued For East West Rail Rolling Stock

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

Brief details of the fleet include.

  • Eleven trains.
  • Self-propelled.
  • Three cars.

Services are due to commence in 2024, serving Oxford, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

Are Three Car Trains Long Enough?

New train services in the UK, especially those on new or reopened routes, seem to suffer from London Overground Syndrome.

I define it as follows.

This benign disease, which is probably a modern version of the Victorian railway mania, was first identified in East London in 2011, when it was found that the newly-refurbished East London Line and North London Line were inadequate due to high passenger satisfaction and much increased usage. It has now spread across other parts of the capital, despite various eradication programs.

The Borders Railway certainly suffered and the London Overground is still adding extra services on the original routes.

Three-car trains may be enough for the initial service, but provision must be made  for running longer trains.

  • The trains that are purchased must be capable of lengthening.
  • Platforms must be built for longer trains.

So often we don’t future-proof new rail routes.

What Performance Is Needed?

I’ll ask this question first, as it may affect the choice of train.

The trains will certainly be at least capable of 100 mph operation.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if they were capable of 110 mph or even 125 mph, as this would surely make it easier for trains to go walkabout on the Great Western, Midland and West Coast Main Lines.

Faster East West trains might also get more services out of the fleet.

Appropriate acceleration and braking would be needed.

Conservative Or Innovative?

Will we get more of the same or will some of the responders to the tender offer trains based on innovative designs?

I would hope that as the line will eventually connect Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes, the trains will take over the flavour of the route and be more innovative.

The Route

The eventual full route of the East West Rail Link will serve these sections.

  • Reading and Ocford – 25 miles – Partially-electrified
  • Oxford and Milton Keynes – 43 miles – Not electrified
  • Milton Keynes and Bedford – 20 miles – Partially-electrified
  • Bedford and Sandy – 10 miles – Not electrified
  • Sandy and Cambridge – 25 miles – Partially-electrified.

Note.

  1. The distances are approximate.
  2. With the exception of Oxford, all the major stations will be served by electric trains on other routes.

It is rather a mixture created out of existing and abandoned routes.

Could Battery Trains Run On The East West Rail Link?

Consider.

  • All the major stations except Oxford have electrification.
  • Sections of the route are electrified.
  • The route is not very challenging.
  • The longest section without electrification is around forty miles.

All this leads me to believe that a battery-electric train with a range of forty miles could handle the route, if there was the means to charge the train at Oxford.

Possibly the easiest way to achieve the charging station at Oxford station, would be to electrify between Didcot Junction and Oxford stations.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I showed that to run at 125 mph, a train needs around three kWh per vehicle mile.

This would mean that to run between Oxford and Milron Keynes stations, would need a maximum power of around 40*3*3 kWh or 360 kWh.

This is only a 120 kWh battery in each car.

I am fairly certain, that a well-designed battery train could run on the East West Rail Link.

The Usual Suspects

There are several train companies, who could be offering existing trains or their developments.

Alstom

Alstom don’t have a current design of train for the UK, but they are heavily into the development of trains powered by hydrogen.

By 2024, I suspect they will be offering a purpose-built hydrogen-powered train for the UK.

Also, by that time, I think it will be likely, that many buses in cities will be powered by zero-carbon hydrogen and the availability of this fuel would be much better than it is today.

An East West Rail Link running hydrogen-powered trains would go a long way to answer the electrification lobby.

Bombardier

Bombardier are developing a 125 mph bi-mode Aventra with batteries, that they are proposing for various franchises in the UK, including the Midland Main Line.

I believe that by rearranging the components of this train, they could develop a train that would be very suitable for the East West Rail Link.

  • Three cars
  • At least 100 mph operating speed
  • In service by 2024 or earlier.

It could be a bi-mode train with batteries, or if battery and the associated charging technology has improved, it could be a battery-electric train.

The latter would certainly fulfil the flavour of the route.

Bombardier’s Aventra would also have the advantages of an electrical version and the ability to add more cars.

CAF

CAF have recently introduced the Class 195 traincaf in the UK.

But would a diesel train be acceptable on a flagship route?

On the other hand CAF have been delivering battery-powered trams for several years and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the company, offer an innovative battery-electric train for the East West Rail Link.

Hitachi

Hitachi don’t make self-powered trains in the UK.

But in Hitachi Plans To Run ScotRail Class 385 EMUs Beyond The Wires, I wrote about the company’s plans to use batteries as range extenders on their Class 385 trains.

I suspect that by 2024, these trains will be running in Scotland and they will probably be high-quality reliable trains.

So could these trains be able to run between Reading and Cambridge using battery power, topped up at the various sections of electrification along the route.

Hitachi’s development regime is cautious, professional and well-funded, so I suspect they could offer a version of the Class 385 train, for delivery in 2024.

Hitachi would also have the advantages of an electrical version and the ability to add more cars.

Siemens

Siemens have a large number of modern electrical multiple units in the UK, but none are self-powered, except the diesel Class 185 train.

Siemens will have a factory in the UK to built London Underground trains by 2024.

But eleven trains could be an expensive order to fulfil, if it required a new self-powered train design.

Stadler

Stadler are an innovative company and their Class 755 train will shortly be starting passenger service in East Anglia.

  • It is three-cars, which is extendable if required.
  • It has a 100 mph operating speed.
  • It is a bi-mode; diesel and electric train.
  • Trains for Wales have ordered a diesel/electric/battery version.
  • There are rumours of hydrogen-powered versions.

Stadler could certainly deliver some of these trains by 2024.

Summing Up

I would suspect that the front runners are Bombardier, Hitachi and Stadler, with CAF in fourth place.

  • All could probably develop a zero-emission train for the route using battery technology.
  • Stadler will have trains in service this year, and I suspect Bombardier and Hitachi will be running trains by 2022.

I think we could be seeing some very good trains on the route.

 

 

 

 

July 13, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Mathematics Of Fast-Charging Battery Trains Using Third-Rail Electrification

In Vivarail Unveils Fast Charging System For Class 230 Battery Trains, I talked about how Vivarail are proposing to fast-charge their Class 230 trains.

  • The trains are fitted with special high-capacity third rail shoes.
  • Third-rail electrification is laid in stations.
  • The third rail is powered by a bank of bstteries, that are trickle-charged from the mains or perhaps even solar power.
  • When the train connects to the rail, the rail is made live and a fast transfer takes place between third-rail and train.

So how much electricity could be passed to a train during a stop?

The most powerful locomotive in the UK, that can use 750 VDC third-rail electrification is a Class 92 locomotive.

According to Wikipedia, it can produce a power output of 4 MW or 4,000 kW, when working on third-rail electrification.

This means, that in an hour, four thousand kWh will be transferred to the train using conventional third-rail electrification.

Or in a minute 66.7 kWh can be transferred.

In Vivarail’s system, because they are transferring energy between batteries, enormous currents can be passed.

To illustrate how batteries can can deliver enormous currents here’s a video of  a guy using two car batteries to weld things together.

These currents are possible because batteries have a low impedance and when the battery on the train is connected to the battery bank on the station, the two batteries will equalise their power.

If we take the example of the Class 92 locomotive and conventional electrification, this would be able to transfer 200 kWh in three minutes or 400 kWh in six minutes.

But I believe that battery-to-battery transfers could be at a much higher current

Thus in a typical one or two minute stop in a station, upwards of 200 kWh could be transferrred to the train..

July 12, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 6 Comments

Class 710 Train Rooves At Blackhorse Road Station

I took these pictures at Blackhorse Road station.

I couldn’t spot any resistor banks on the rooves, that could be used to burn off excess energy, that is generated by regenerative braking.

Consider.

  • The rooves do have a rather clean aerodynamic look.
  • I’ve never seen resistor banks placed anywhere other than on the roof of a train.
  • Regenerative braking must either return the energy through the electrification or store in in some form of onboard energy storage.

It looks to me, that Bombardier have designed a very efficient train.

July 9, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Carbon Capture From Cement Manufacturing Nears Market Readiness

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

In Climate Change: The Massive CO2 Emitter You May Not Know About, I talked about the carbon dioxide that is released, by the manufacture of cement, mainly referring to this article on the BBC.

This is the first three paragraphs of the BBC article.

Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet.

But, while cement – the key ingredient in concrete – has shaped much of our built environment, it also has a massive carbon footprint.

Cement is the source of about 8% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to think tank Chatham House.

However, the article on The Fifth Estate, raises hopes that new processes for making cement may reduce the carbon footprint of this important material.

This is the first paragraph of tThe Fifth Estate article.

A consortium led by Australian firm Calix is now well on the way to completing a pilot plant for its breakthrough technology that will capture carbon emissions from the manufacture of lime cement. Other projects with similar aims to reduce the global warming impact of construction with concrete are also racing to the marketplace.

It certainly looks like the Australians are doing something concrete about climate change!

 

 

July 9, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , | 3 Comments

Exclusive Interview: Eviation’s Co-Founder And CEO Omer Bar-Yohay

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

As the title says, it is an interview about the Eviation Alice, with the CEO of the company behind the project.

It contains some interesting answers.

The Market

Omer Bar-Yohay made these points.

  • The US, where 70 percent of General Aviation happens.
  • Some interest from regional operators struggling with low margins. Have Eviation got the performance, range and capacity, in line with what regional operators can afford?
  • They were surprised to see the size of interest from freight operators.

Later he says that the current version can handle 2,400 pounds of freight, which is just over a tonne.

What is the value of a tonne of small packets, specialist seafood, agricultural product or medical supplies?

Autonomous Flight

The regulators or the market are not ready for it.

VTOL

There are a lot of other players , ideas and money looking at this.

Focused

Eviation Air seem to be very much focused on getting their plane in the air and to market.

Conclusion

If nothing else, Eviation Air seem to be a professional company and they have carefully researched what their unusual plane can and will do.

Transport is liberally sprinkled with odd ball ideas, that took advantage of radical thinking to create world beating products.

Consider the De Havilland Mosquito, Douglas Skyhawk, Hawker-Siddeley Harrier and Issigonis’s Mini.

There are also several absolute duds around, because companies got the technology wrong.

July 4, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Engie Partners Innovate UK For £4 Million Energy Transition Competition

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

  • This is an interesting link-up between the UK Government Agency; Innovate UK and the French energy giant; Engie.
  • Wikipedia defines energy transition as a long-term structural change in energy systems.
  • It is the first time Innovate UK has secured overseas private funding.
  • It aims to fund the very best of \british innovation in clean growth innovation.
  • Grants of between £100,000 and £1.2 million will be awarded.
  • There appears to be no mention of Brexit!

It looks to me, like a very strong endorsement of British innovation and the British energy industry by the French.

I also think, that if there is one industry where the British and the French should be linked, it is energy.

The UK has the following energy sources and resources.

  • Offshore and onshore oil and gas.
  • Redundant gas fields for carbon capture and storage.
  • Offshore and onshore wind.
  • Large areas of sea for offshore wind.
  • We have 8,183 MW of installed offshore wind capacity, which is the largest in the world.
  • The possibilities of tidal and wave power from a long Western coast.
  • Vast experience in building off-shore structures in some of the worst weather on the planet.
  • Interconnectors to Norway and Iceland to import their surplus geothermal and hydroelectric energy.

Could we become a renewable-energy powerhouse?

The French have the following.

  • Nuclear power, some of which will need replacing.
  • Only 500 MW of offshore wind.
  • More solar power than we have.
  • Easy connection to North Africa for solar power.

But in some ways, most important is the several interconnectors between the UK and France, with more planned.

Conclusion

Between the UK and France, with help from Ireland, Spain and Portugal, can develop a massive Western European renewable energy powerhouse, backed  by the following, non-renewable or external sources.

  • French nuclear power.
  • North African solar.
  • Icelandic geothermal power
  • Icelandic hydro-electric power
  • Norwegian hydro-electric power

It should be noted that in a few years, the UK will have joined Iceland, Norway and North Africa outside of the European Union.

I believe that Sovereign Wealth Funds, Hedge Funds, Pension Funds, Insurance Companies and other individuals, groups and organisations will increasingly see renewable energy as good places for long-term investment of their funds.

The two big problems are as follows.

  • What happens when all these renewable energy sources are producing more energy than we can use?
  • What happens when there is an energy deficit?

Energy storage is the solution, but the amount needed is massive.

In Airport Plans World’s Biggest Car Parks For 50,000 Cars, I looked at the mathematics in using car parks for electric cars for energy storage.

These are a few figures.

  • Electric Mountain is the UK’s largest electricity storage scheme with a capacity of 9.1 GWh.
  • The largest battery in the world is the Bath County Pumped Storage Station with a capacity of 24 GWh, which works on similar principles to Electric Mountain.
  • Building another Electric Mountain would cost £1350 million, if we could find somewhere to put it.

But supposing half the 35.5 million cars and light goods vehicles in the UK were replaced by new electric vehicles containing a battery of around 20 kWh, that would be a total storage of 355 GWh or nearly forty Electric Mountains.

Conclusion

Harnessing all of these batteries will be an enormous challenge, but it will be ideas like this, that will enable the world to go carbon neutral by 2050.

But I don’t think we’ll ever see Trump or Xi Jinping in an electric limousine..

 

June 21, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Green Mini-Trains To Reverse Beeching’s Cuts

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

This is a paragraph.

The government is funding trials of an “ultra-light”, environmentally friendly train powered by gas from organic waste in place of a conventional diesel engine.

Members of the consortium developing the concept include Birmingham City University and Parry People Movers.

I wrote about the Parry People Mover in Stourbridge And The Parry People Mover.

It did the shuttling of people between Stourbridge Junction and Stourbridge Town stations in a professional manner and it can’t have done much wrong, as it still is.

The technology that drives the train is based on a flywheel and is innovative to say the least. This section in the Wikipedia entry for Parry People Movers is called Technology.

This is the first two paragraphs of the section.

PPMs utilise a rotating flywheel as a store of kinetic energy which is then used to power the vehicle. A typical PPM flywheel is made from steel laminates, approximately 1 m (39 in) in diameter and 500 kg (1,100 lb) in mass, designed to rotate at a maximum speed of 2,500 rpm.[8] The flywheel is mounted horizontally at the centre of the unit, beneath the seating area. The flywheel is driven by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor. The flywheel is connected to the rail wheels via a hydrostatic variable transmission system.

The flywheel allows the direct capture of brake energy (when slowing down or descending gradients) and its re-use for acceleration (called regenerative braking). When the vehicle brakes, the hydrostatic transmission feeds the energy back into the flywheel. Since the short-term power demand for acceleration is provided by the energy stored in the flywheel, there is no need for a large engine. A variety of small engine types can be used including LPG, diesel or electric traction.

I have done a calculation of the kinetic energy in the flywheel and it is surprisingly low at 0.6 kWh if it is a disc and 1.2 kWh if it is a ring.

A capacitor of the same mass would hold about the same amount of energy, but would probably need a more complicated transmission.

June 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Leaves On The line? AI Signals End To Commuters’ Train Pain

The title of this article is the same as that of an article, that was on the front page of yesterday’s copy of The Times.

It talks about a system being developed by Hack Partners, that uses a camera to record lineside trees and then a computer using AI directs tree cutting gangs to the right places.

This is one of several systems that are to be funded by the Government. This paragraph summarised the grants.

The DfT and Innovate UK, the government’s technology agency, will announce today that up to £7.8 million is being invested in 24 trials of projects to boost performance on the railway. Each will receive between £250,000 and £350,000.

I particularly like a system from a Dutch company called 4Silence, which is designed to cut the noise of trains, which is described like this.

other schemes being funded include a noise barrier only 1m high topped by a steel grid, developed by the Dutch company 4Silence, which can deflect the sound of passing trains, improving the quality of life for residents near by.

I wonder what percentage of these trials will be winners.

I hope those who judge the success of these schemes, except that not all innovation succeeds.

June 14, 2019 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.
  • 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