The Anonymous Widower

Form Energy’s New Low-Cost, Iron-Air Battery Runs For 100 Hours

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

This paragraph sums up the genesis of the battery.

A secretive startup backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures thinks it may have the answer, though. Form Energy, which was co-founded by the creator of Tesla’s Powerwall battery, Mateo Jaramillo, and MIT battery guru Yet-Ming Chiang, has unveiled a new battery design that essentially relies on a process of “reversible rusting” to provide multi-day energy storage at ultra-low costs.

And this paragraph describes the operation of the battery.

The company’s batteries are each about the size of a washing machine, and are filled with iron pellets and a water-based electrolyte similar to that used in AA batteries. To discharge, the battery breathes in oxygen from the air, converting the pellets to iron oxide, or rust, and producing electricity in the process. To charge, the application of a current converts the rust back into iron and expels the oxygen.

It’s all very fascinating and leads to a battery made from very affordable materials.

The article quotes between $50 to $80 per kilowatt-hour for lithium-ion batteries and around $20 per kilowatt-hour for Form Energy’s battery.


The article is definitely a must-read.

I feel that Form Energy should be added to my list of viable batteries.

August 3, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage | , , , | 2 Comments

The Complex Web At Sunderland

This article on the BBC is entitled Nissan Announces Major UK Electric Car Expansion.

This is the first few paragraphs.

Nissan has announced a major expansion of electric vehicle production at its car plant in Sunderland which will create 1,650 new jobs.

The Japanese carmaker will build its new-generation all-electric model at the site as part of a £1bn investment that will also support thousands of jobs in the supply chain.

And Nissan’s partner, Envision AESC, will build an electric battery plant.

I think there is more to this than meets the eye!

We wait several years for a battery gigafactory to come along and then two come along in a month or two; Blyth and Sunderland. On television today, a BBC reporter talked of eight possible battery gigafactories in the UK.

Lithium Supply

Where do they all think the lithium will come from, as some say there’s a world-wide shortage?

The only explanation, is that the UK government and the gigafactory owners have bought into a secure source of lithium, that is convenient for or easily transported to the North-East.

I am very suspicious that Cornish Lithium or British Lithium have found something bigger than anybody expected.

The numbers don’t add up otherwise!

Lithium Refining

On the other hand, it appears that lithium needs a lot of electricity to extract the metal from the ores, as electrolysis is used.

But with all the windpower being developed off the North-East Coast, there could be more than enough to refine the lithium.

Remember too, that lithium has applications in defence and aerospace applications, when alloyed with magnesium and aluminium.

So could a substantial lithium refining capability be built in the North-East?

The Chinese View

In The Times, Lei Zhang, who is chief executive of Envision also said he liked our masses of offshore wind power, so perhaps the Chinese want to produce green batteries in Sunderland after refining the lithium in the North-East?


We probably need battery-electric cars built from green steel, fitted with green batteries and charged with green electricity.

Is the Gigawatts of offshore wind electricity in the North-East luring the battery and car makes to the area.

Could we also see green steel manufacturing on Teesside?


July 1, 2021 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gresham House Unveils 45-MW Battery Storage Purchase

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Gresham House Energy Storage Fund plc (LON:GRID) has acquired a 45-MW portfolio of battery storage systems in England, growing its operational fleet to 395 MW.

Gresham House are certainly growing.

As a Control Engineer and mathematical modeller, I certainly like what they are doing.

Modelling the cash-flow and earnings from all these batteries are is one of the sort of multi-variable problems, that I cut my teeth on, in early 1970s.

If I was starting out on my own now, as I did in 1972, Gresham House would be one of the companies I’d approach.

Their latest purchase is interesting in that it includes a 35 MW battery with a twelve year control to load balance for the National Grid.

There must also be a business model emerging for the developers of energy storage.

  • Design and build an energy storage system to satisfy a company or local area’s need.
  • Show it is working successfully for a period of time.
  • Add a nice lucrative contract if you can!

The whole setup is then sold to someone like Gresham House.

At present, Gresham House has a portfolio, which is all lithium-ion storage. I don’t think, it will be a long time before other types of storage are added.

February 2, 2021 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage | , , | Leave a comment

Gresham House Energy Storage Fund Has Staying Power

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in the Tempus column of The Times.

It is a good explanation of how energy storage funds like Gresham House work.

I believe they are very much the future.

Some of the new forms of energy storage, that I talk about on this blog tick all of the boxes and may even satisfy an extreme supporter of Extinction Rebellion.

  • Extremely environmentally friendly.
  • Higher energy-density than lithium-ion
  • Lower cost per GWh, than lithium-ion
  • Much longer life than lithium-ion.
  • Safe to install in built up areas.
  • GWh-scale storage in a football pitch space or smaller.

The UK’s largest battery is the 9.1 GWh Electric Mountain pumped storage system in Snowdonia and there is talk about over 100 GW of offshore wind turbines in UK waters. There will be masses of energy storage built in the UK in the next forty years to support these wind turbines.


Companies like Gresham House Energy Fund seem to have developed a model, that could provide the necessary energy storage and a safe reliable home for the billions of pounds in the UK, that is invested in pension funds.

Lithium-ion batteries will be reserved for mobile applications.

September 2, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage | , , , | 2 Comments

Financing Secured To ‘Enable Rapid Development’ Of Norway’s First Lithium Battery Cell Gigafactory

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Energy Storage News.

The article says that the gigafactory’s biggest competitor will be in Sweden.

With companies in the UK, like Hyperdrive Innovation, Gore Street Energy Fund and others developing massive demand for batteries, perhaps we should build our own gigafactory?

This article on Energy Storage News is entitled More Money For Lithium Exploration In Cornwall.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Cornish Lithium has successfully raised over £826,000 from shareholders to continue exploration for lithium in Cornwall, in both geothermal waters and in hard rock, and will build on the successful drilling programmes that concluded earlier this year.

I wrote about Cornish Lithium in How To Go Mining In A Museum.

Could an unusual tale becoming to a successful conclusion?


I think we can trust the Cornish, Norwegians and Swedes to ensure, we have enough lithium-ion batteries.

July 9, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage, Finance | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan A ‘Very Interesting Market’ For Gore Street As It Becomes An ‘Enabler’ Of JXTG’s Transition

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Solar Power Portal.

This is the introductory paragraph.

London Stock Exchange-listed energy storage fund Gore Street has outlined how it sees Japan as a “very interesting market” following its investment from JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy Corporation.

I like Gore Street’s philosophy and its execution.

I am not an investor and probably never will be, but they seem to be based on sound principles and do their modelling well. I’ve built enough large financial models to know a good one from its results.

Gore Street is normally investing in lithium-ion batteries.

  • These batteries now have a predictable reliability profile and I suspect cash-flow from owning a battery is fairly predictable.
  • The control and monitoring software will get better as time goes by and these batteries will probably update themselves automatically.
  • They probably aren’t that affected by COVID-19, as lockdown still needs energy to be balanced and these batteries are probably performing as normal.
  • The heat of the last few weeks probably caused more grief than COVID-19.
  • If a site visit is necessary, they can probably be done with one man in a van with a key to the security system. So maintenance is probably easy to do, whilst maintaining social distance.

I also liked this paragraph from the article.

, Gore Street Capital CEO, Alex O’Cinneide, said that the fact that the deregulation of the Japanese market over the next few years makes it of interest to the company, alongside it having the same characteristics of the UK in terms of the decommissioning of coal, nuclear and gas and increasing levels of renewables.

Could Gore Street Energy Fund, be a safe investment for today’s difficult times?


July 2, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Finance, Health | , , | Leave a comment

Do We Need A UK Lithium-Ion Battery Factory?

My post, Gore Street Acquires 50MW Ferrymuir Battery Project, Eyes More In Scotland and the article on the Energyst with the same name, got me thinking.

It was this statement about Gore Street Energy Fund, that really started the thought.

The fund said the addition takes its portfolio built or under development to 293MW and added that is has options for a further 900MW.

Gore Street obviously have the money to build all of this energy storage.

  • I have also looked at some of their projects on Google Maps and there are still plenty of sites on green- or brown-field land close to electricity sub-stations, where energy storage would be easy to connect.
  • I suspect, they have some good engineers or electricity marketing specialists available.
  • My worry, would be, with many countries going the energy storage route, is there enough capacity to build all the batteries we need.

We have three routes, we could easily take in this country.

  • Convert suplus energy to hydrogen using electrolysers from ITM Power in Rotherham.
  • Develop some BALDIES (Build Anywhere Long Duration Intermittent Energy Storage). British technology is available as the CRYObatteryfrom Highview Power, who signed to build their first full-size plant in the UK, last week.
  • Build a lithium-ion battery factory. Preferably of the next generation, so that battery vehicles will go further on a charge.

It is my view, that we should do all three!

Will Gore Street, add a BALDIES to their portfolio of lithium-ion energy storage.

I think the decision makers at Gore Street would sleep comfortably in their beds if they bought a CRYObattery for a location, that needed a larger battery.


As to the answer to my question, the answer is yes, as mobile application will need more and better batteries and on balance, we should have our own supply.



June 24, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage | , , , | 2 Comments

NEC Pulls The Plug On Storage Integration Business

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

It doesn’t appear that building grid-scale lithium-ion battery storage is a licence to print money!

And NEC bought the business from a bankrupt company!

June 13, 2020 Posted by | Business, Energy Storage | | Leave a comment

Lithium Battery Cell Prices To Almost Halve By 2029

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Energy Storage News.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Lithium-ion cell prices will fall by around 46% between now and 2029, according to new analysis from Guidehouse Insights, reaching US$66.6 per kWh by that time.

The rest of the article contains a lot more useful predictions.

I will add a prediction of my own.

The drop in prices of lithium-ion batteries will surely result in a lot more applications, in the following areas.

  • Battery-electric vehicles
  • Battery-electric vans and buses and light-trucks.
  • Battery-electric trams and trains
  • Battery-electric aircraft.
  • Battery-electric ships.
  • Battery-electric tractors
  • Battety-electric construction plant

Lithium-ion batteries will also be used in hydrogen-powered versions of any of the above.

The cost of lithium-ion batteries, will also lead to more applications in the following areas.

  • Grid energy storage or as it sometimes called; front-of-the-meter storage.
  • Heavy trucks
  • Double-deck buses
  • Railway locomotives

These could use a very large number of lithium-ion cells.


Because as yet, there is no alternative to lithium-ion cells for mobile applications, I think we’ll see grid-energy storage going to one of the alternatives like Gravitricity, Highview Power or Zinc8.



June 9, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport/Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Could Some of Hitachi’s Existing Trains In The UK Be Converted To Battery-Electric Trains?

The last five fleets of AT-300 trains ordered for the UK have been.

Each fleet seems to be tailored to the needs of the individual operator, which is surely as it should be.

I can make some observations.

Fast Electric Trains

Both all-electric fleets on the list, will run on routes, where speed will be important.

  • The Avanti West Coast Class 807 trains on the West Coast Main Line, will have to be able to keep up keep with the Class 390 trains, that have the advantage of tilt for more speed.
  • The East Coast Trains Class 803 trains on the East Coast Main Line, will have to work hard to maintain a demanding schedule, as I outlined in Thoughts On East Coast Trains.

Any reduction in weight will improve the acceleration.

  • The seven tonne MTU 12V 1600 R80L diesel engines can be removed to reduce the weight.
  • As a five-car Class 800 train with three diesel engine weighs 243 tonnes, this could save nearly 9 % of the train’s weight.
  • East Coast Trains feel they need an appropriately-sized battery for emergency hotel power. Could this be because the catenary is not as good on the East Coast Main Line as on the West?
  • Perhaps, Avanti West Coast feel a battery is not needed, but they could obviously fit one later. Especially, if there was already a ready-wired position underneath the train.

The extra acceleration given by 100% electric operation, must make all the difference in obtaining the required performance for the two routes.

Why Four Diesel Engines In A Class 810 Train?

The Class 810 trains are an update of the current Class 800/Class 802 trains. Wikipedia described the differences like this.

The Class 810 is an evolution of the Class 802s with a revised nose profile and facelifted end headlight clusters, giving the units a slightly different appearance. Additionally, there will be four diesel engines per five-carriage train (versus three on the 800s and 802s), and the carriages will be 2 metres (6.6 ft) shorter due to platform length constraints at London St Pancras.

Additionally, in this article in the October 2019 Edition of Modern Railways, which is entitled EMR Kicks Off New Era, this is said.

The EMR bi-modes will be able to run at 125 mph in diesel mode, matching Meridian performance in a step-up from the capabilities of the existing Class 80x units in service with other franchises.

The four diesel engines would appear to be for more power, so that these trains will be able to run at 125 mph on diesel.

In How Much Power Is Needed To Run A Train At 125 mph?, I calculated that a Class 801 train, which is all-electric, consumes 3.42 kWh per vehicle mile.

  • At 125 mph a train will in an hour travel 125 miles.
  • In that hour the train will need 125 x 5 x 3.42 = 2137.5 kWh
  • This means that the total power of the four diesel engines must be 2137.5,
  • Divide 2137.5 by four and each diesel must be rated at 534.4 kW to provide the power needed.

The MTU 12V 1600 R80L diesel engine is described in this datasheet on the MTU web site.

Note on the datasheet, there is a smaller variant of the same engine called a 12V 1600 R70, which has a power output of 565 kW, as compared to the 700 kW of the 12V 1600 R80L.

The mass of the engines are probably at the limits of the range given on the datasheet.

  • Dry – 4500-6500 Kg
  • Wet – 4700-6750 Kg

It would appear that the less-powerful 12V 100 R70 is about two tonnes lighter.

So where will four engines be placed in a Class 810 train?

  • The five-car Class 800 and Class 802 trains have diesel-engines in cars 2, 3 and 4.
  • The nine-car Class 800 and Class 802 trains have diesel-engines in cars 2,3, 5, 7 and 8.
  • It appears that diesel-engines aren’t placed under the driver cars.
  • Five-car AT-300 trains generally have a formation of DPTS+MS+MS+MC+DPTF.
  • The car length in the Class 810 trains are two metres shorter than those in other trains.

Could it be that the intermediate cars on Class 810 trains will be an MC car, which has both First and Standard Class seating and two identical MS cars both with two smaller diesel engines?

  • The two smaller diesel engines will be about 2.6 tonnes heavier, than a single larger engine.
  • Only one fuel tank and other gubbins will be needed.
  • The shorter car will be lighter in weight.
  • MTU may have designed a special diesel engine to power the train.

I would suspect that a twin-engined MS car is possible.

Could The Battery And The Diesel Engine Be Plug-Compatible?

I found this document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-Speed Rolling Stock For UK Intercity Express Programme.

The document may date from 2014, but it gives a deep insight into the design of Hitachi’s trains.

I will take a detailed look at the traction system as described in the document.

This schematic of the traction system is shown.

Note BC is described as battery charger.

This is said in the text, where GU is an abbreviation for generator unit.

The system can select the appropriate power source from either the main transformer or the GUs. Also, the size and weight of the system were minimized by designing the power supply converter to be able to work with both power sources. To ensure that the Class 800 and 801 are able to adapt to future changes in operating practices, they both have the same traction system and the rolling stock can be operated as either class by simply adding or removing GUs. On the Class 800, which is intended to run on both electrified and non-electrified track, each traction system has its own GU. On the other hand, the Class 801 is designed only for electrified lines and has one or two GUs depending on the length of the trainset (one GU for trainsets of five to nine cars, two GUs for trainsets of 10 to 12 cars). These GUs supply emergency traction power and auxiliary power in the event of a power outage on the catenary, and as an auxiliary power supply on non-electrified lines where the Class 801 is in service and pulled by a locomotive. This allows the Class 801 to operate on lines it would otherwise not be able to use and provides a backup in the event of a catenary power outage or other problem on the ground systems as well as non-electrified routes in loco-hauled mode.

This is all very comprehensive.

Note that the extract says, that both the Class 800 trains and Class 801 trains have the same traction control system. A section called Operation in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 802 train, outlines the differences between a Class 802 train and a Class 800 train.

The Class 802s are broadly identical to the Class 800 bi-mode trains used in the Intercity Express Programme, and are used in a similar way; they run as electric trains where possible, and are equipped with the same diesel generator engines as the Class 800. However, they utilise higher engine operating power – 700 kW (940 hp) per engine as opposed to 560 kW (750 hp) – and are fitted with larger fuel tanks to cope with the gradients and extended running in diesel mode expected on the long unelectrified stretches they will operate on.

I would assume that the differences are small enough, so that a Class 802 train, can use the same traction control system, as the other two train classes.

The Hitachi document also describes the Train Management and Control System (TCMS), the function of which is described as.

Assists the work of the train crew; a data communication function that aids maintenance work; and a traction drive system that is powered by the overhead lines (catenaries) and GUs.

Several trains have been described as computers on wheels. That could certainly be said about these trains.

There would appear to be a powerful Automatic Train Identification Function.

To simplify the rearrangement and management of train configurations, functions are provided for identifying the train (Class 800/801), for automatically determining the cars in the trainset and its total length, and for coupling and uncoupling up to 12 cars in normal and 24 cars in rescue or emergency mode.

Now that would be a sight – One nine-car train rescuing another!

I would assume that this Automatic Train Identification Function has already been updated to add the Class 802 trains and it would appear to me, as a very experienced computer programmer, that in future it could be further updated to cater for the following.

  • New classes of trains like the future Class 803 and Class 810 trains.
  • The fitting of batteries instead of diesel engines.

Could the Function even be future-proofed for hydrogen power?

There are two main ways for trains to operate when the diesel engine in a car has been replaced by a battery.

  1. A plug-compatible battery module is designed, that in terms of function looks exactly like a diesel engine to the TCMS and through that the train crew.
  2. The car with a battery becomes a new type of car and the TCMS is updated to control it, in an appropriate manner.

Both methods are equally valid.

I would favour the first method, as I have come across numerous instances in computer programming, engineering and automation, where the method has been used successfully.

The method used would be Hitachi’s choice.

What Size Of Battery Could Be Fitted In Place Of The Diesel Engine?


  • The wet mass of an MTU 16V 1600 R80L diesel engine commonly fitted to AT-300 trains of different types is 6750 Kg or nearly seven tonnes.
  • My engineering knowledge would suggest, that it would be possible to replace the diesel engine with an inert lump of the same mass and not affect the dynamics of the train.

So could it be that a plug-compatible battery module can be fitted, so long as it doesn’t exceed the mass of the diesel engine it replaces?

For an existing Class 800 or Class 802 train, that limit could be seven tonnes.

But for East Coast Train’s Class 803 train, that size would probably be decided by the required train performance.

How much power would a one tonne battery hold?

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

This is a sentence from the page.

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

Using these figures, a one-tonne battery would be between 100 and 265 kWh in capacity, depending on the energy density.

This table can be calculated of battery weight, low capacity and high capacity.

  • 1 tonne – 100 kWh – 265 kWh
  • 2 tonne – 200 kWh – 530 kWh
  • 3 tonne – 300 kWh – 895 kWh
  • 4 tonne – 400 kWh – 1060 kWh
  • 5 tonne – 500 kWh – 1325 kWh
  • 6 tonne – 600 kWh – 1590 kWh
  • 7 tonne – 700 kWh – 1855 kWh

As energy densities are only going to improve, the high capacity figures are only going to get larger.

If you look at the design of the Class 803 trains, which could have three positions for diesel engines or batteries, the designers of the train and East Coast Trains can choose the battery size as appropriate for the following.

  • Maximum performance.
  • Power needs when halted in stations.
  • Power needs for emergency power, when the wires come tumbling down.

I suspect, they will fit only one battery, that is as small as possible to minimise mass and increase acceleration, but large enough to provide sufficient power, when needed.

Conversion Of A Five-Car Class 800/Class 802 Train To Battery-Electric Operation

If Hitachi get their design right, this could be as simple as the following.

  • Any of the three MTU 12V 1600 R80L diesel engines is removed, from the train.
  • Will the other diesel related gubbins, like the fuel tank be removed? They might be left in place, in case the reverse conversion should be needed.
  • The new battery-module is put in the diesel engine’s slot.
  • The train’s computer system is updated.
  • The train is tested.

It should be no more difficult than attaching a new device to your personal computer. Except that it’s a lot heavier.

As there are three diesel engines, one, two or three could be replaced with batteries.

Trains would probably be able to have a mixture of diesel engines and battery modules.

A Class 802 train with one diesel engine and two five-tonne batteries would have the following power sources.

  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • A 700 kW diesel engine.
  • Two five-tonne batteries of between 500 kWh and 1325 kWh.

With intelligent software controlling the various power sources, this train could have a useful range, away from the electrification.

Conversion Of A Five-Car Class 810 Train To Battery-Electric Operation

The process would be similar to that of a Class 800/Class 802 Train, except there would be more possibilities with four engines.

It would also need to have sufficient range to bridge the gaps in the electrification.

Perhaps each train would have the following power sources.

  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification.
  • Two 565 kW diesel engines.
  • Two four-tonne batteries of between 400 kWh and 1060 kWh.
  • Batteries might also be placed under the third intermediate car.

I estimate that with 400 kWh batteries, a train like this would have a battery range of sixty-five miles.


The permutations and combinations would allow trains to be tailored to the best compromise for a train operating company.

June 8, 2020 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment