The Anonymous Widower

New Rail Testing Scheme Launched For Small Businesses

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

Businesses in the West Midlands are being offered subsidised access to test and trial facilities as a way to boost railway innovation.

The University of Birmingham has joined forces with Quinton Rail Technology Centre (QRTC) to offer access to the UK’s only privately owned and independent outdoor rail testing and trialling site.

There would appear to be one major condition, companies must be signed up to the DIGI-RAIL program at the Uiversity of Birmingham.

I think this concept is an excellent idea, as often finding a way to test a new product, is the most difficult part of the development process.

But why restrict the process to rail developments?

I have had friends in Cambridge, who have been involved in medical developments.

Finding a route to test their product, often means finding an overseas partner, as much of the NHS and its research partners almost have a policy to exclude, ideas that they didn’t think of.

As someone, who helped fund the successful development of a metered-dose inhaler for asthma drugs, I can honestly say, we would have been greatly helped by a far-sighted agency attached to a reputable University.

 

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Health, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

University Of Birmingham Leases HST For Alternative Fuel Tests

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

This is the first paragraph.

A High Speed Train is being leased by the University of Birmingham to help analyse and test what alternative fuel could be used to power long-distance passenger or freight trains.

It will be interesting to see what results from the research.

A few of my thoughts.

Suitability Of A HST For Research

It must be suitable for research purposes, otherwise the University wouldn’t have obtained the train.

If you look at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education web site, they list the Research Areas.

  • Railway Control and Operations Simulation
  • Data Integration and Cybersecurity
  • Condition Monitoring and Sensing
  • Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems
  • Power Systems and Energy Use
  • Aerodynamics
  • Climate Change and Weather Impact

There must be a lot of scope for the use of a real train, especially one which has a lot of free space in the engine, where test equipment can be mounted.

Porterbrook’s Interest

I can think of several reasons, why Porterbrook might need to partner with the Research Centre, for sound commercial reasons.

Most will probably seem small in the eyes of the general public, but might be based on Porterbrook’s feedback from customers about their extensive fleet.

Understanding The HST’s Success

The HST or InterCity 125 has been an undoubted success with passengers, drivers, staff and train companies for forty years and understanding the reasons could be invaluable in improving rail transport in the future.

Education

I suspect too that the train will be used to educate students, especially those, who want to work in train or railway design.

When I left Liverpool University with my Control Engineering degree in 1968, I was one of the few, who’d worked on bg heavy machinery in a factory environment.

These days, with Heath and Safety rules much tighter, I doubt, today’s students can gewt the same experience.

Conclusion

I do hope that Porterbrook and the Research Centre, when they look back in a few years, feel that this venture has been a success.

September 21, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

RTRI Tests Fuel Cell Multiple Unit

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

JAPAN: Railway Technical Research Institute has started test running with a prototype multiple-unit which can work as a conventional or battery EMU or using a fuel cell powerpack.

Converted from an older 1·5 kV DC EMU, the test train comprises a 34 tonne motor car and 29 tonne trailer vehicle. Each car is 19 760 mm long and 2 950 mm wide. It is able to operate as a conventional EMU when running under overhead catenary, or as a battery unit off-wire, with or without the fuel cell in use to trickle-charge the batteries.

These are my thoughts.

The Hydrogen Fuel Cells.

The article says this about the hydrogen fuel cells.

Two polymer electrolyte fuel cells are contained in an underfloor module 2 600 mm long, 2 655 mm wide and 720 mm high, which weighs 1·9 tonnes.

The fuel cells are stated to have a rating of 90 kW at 200 to 350 V.

To get a handle on how powerful the hydrogen fuel cells are, these are some characteristics of a British Rail Class 456 train.

  • It is a two-car electric multiple unit.
  • It weighs 72.5 tonnes.
  • It has an operating speed of 75 mph.
  • It is a 750 VDC train.
  • It has a power output of 373 kW

I wouldn’t think that the two trains are that far apart in performance and capacity.

The Japanese train has a total power output from the fuel cells of 180 kW, but it can also use power from the battery.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the Japanese fuel cell and battery combination was powerful enough to power the British train.

I also think, they would fit underneath a typical British train like the Class 456 train, which has a width of 2800 mm.

The Hydrogen Tanks

The article says this about the hydrogen tanks and the range.

Hydrogen is stored in four high pressure cylinders at 35 MPa, with a capacity of 180 litres, giving a range of 72 km.

The mass of the hydrogen in the tank according to this calculator on the Internet is around 4.3 Kg.

In How Much Energy Can Extracted From a Kilogram Of Hydrogen?, I showed that a typical fuel cell can produce 16 kWh from a kilogram of hydrogen.

So the hydrogen tank can be considered a battery holding 4.3 * 16 = 68.8 kWh.

That doesn’t sound much, so perhaps the capacity figure is for a single tank. In that case the total for the train would be 275.2 kWh, which seems more in line with the battery size of Vivarail’s two-car battery prototype, which has 424 kWh.

Each tank would be something like 2500 mm long and 300 mm in diameter, if they were cylindrical. Double the diameter to 600 mm and the capacity would be over 700 litres.

The Battery

The article says the train has a 540 kW battery, which I think could be a misprint, as it would more likely be 540 kWh.

Performance

The article says this about the performance.

The four 95 kW traction motors provide a maximum acceleration of 0·7 m/s2, and an electric braking rate of 0·86 m/s2

It also says that the range is 72 km.

My observations on the performance and traction system are.

  • The traction power of the two-car Japanese train at 380 kW is very similar to the 373 kW of the similar-sized British Class 456 train
  • The acceleration rate is very typical of an electric multiple unit.
  • Bracking is regenerative and used to charge the batteries. As it should!

This leads me to conclude, that this is a train, that could run a short public service, just as the Class 379 BEMU demonstrator did in 2015.

Thoughts About Range

The range is quoted at 72 kilometres (forty five miles.) This figure is unusual in that it is very precise, so perhaps it’s the Japanese way to give an exact figure, whereas we might say around or over seventy kilometres.

Applying my trusty formula of three kWh per vehicle-mile for cruising gives a energy requirement of 270 kWh for the full range, which is close to the four-tank energy capacity of 275.2 kWh.

Comparison With Alstom’s Breeze

Alstom are building a hydsrogen-powered version of a Class 321 train, which they have named Breeze.

Like the Japanese train, this is a effectively two-car train with respect to capacity as large hydrogen tanks to give a thousand kilometre range are installed.

So do the developers of both trains feel that a hydrogen-powered train to replace two- and three-car diesel multiple units is the highest priority?

Conclusion

If nothing else, it seems the Japanese have designed a two-car electric multiple unit, that has the following characteristics.

  • Practical size of two-cars.
  • Most equipment underneath the train.
  • Useful range.
  • Acceleration and braking in line with modern units.
  • Regenerative braking.
  • Ability to work on overhead, battery and hydrogen power.

I am led to the conclusion, that once their research is finished, the Japanese could design a very practical hydrogen-powered train for production in the required numbers.

 

 

 

September 7, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

How To Go Mining In A Museum

This article on Active Investors is entitled Government Backing Lined Up For Cornish Lithium As It Partners With Wardell Armstrong And The Natural History Museum To Advance UK Battery Capabilities.

These are the first few paragraphs.

Cornish Lithium is now moving in some pretty august circles in its quest to put the UK on the lithium map.

Lithium is essential in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.

“It’s been a huge voyage of discovery,” says Jeremy Wrathall.

“An absolutely amazing journey.”

In the past year the company he created, Cornish Lithium, has been transforming rapidly from a concept conjured up from the pages of old documents hidden in half-forgotten library vaults into a well-funded exploration vehicle with 10 geologists and some serious-minded partners providing additional funding and know-how.

The article goes on to give the full story of lithium in Cornwall and how by looking at old documents in the museum’s archives, Jeremy Wrathall may have found where to mine for the valuable mineral.

Now his company; Cornish Lithium, who are partnered with Wardell Armstrong, who describe themselves on their web site as.

An Engineering, Environmental and Mining consultancy with over 180 years of international service and experience.

And the Natural History Museum, who need no introduction,

They have been backed by £500,000 from the Government’s Faraday Battery Challenge fund.

It is a must-read tale, that I very much has a successful conclusion.

June 11, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

Better Storage Might Give Hydrogen The Edge As Renewable Car Fuel

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on an Australian blog called Create.

This paragraph summarises the article.

Professor David Antonelli from Lancaster University has recently discovered a material that he says could allow existing tank sizes to fuel four times their current range.

Take the time to read the article in full!

If this is developed successfully, then coupled to improved battery technology, that will surely increase the practical range of hybrid hydrogen-battery cars, trucks, buses and trains.

Whilst politicians vanish up their backsides discussing the irrelevant Brexit, engineers and scientists will get on developing ideas, that will make everybody’s lives better.

May 29, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

Seabed Rocks Could Act As Green Energy Stores

The title of this post is the same as that of this press release from the University of Strathclyde.

This is the first four paragraphs.

Rocks in the seabed off the UK coast could provide long-term storage locations for renewable energy production, new research suggests.

An advanced technique could be used to trap compressed air in porous rock formations found in the North Sea using electricity from renewable technologies.

The pressurised air could later be released to drive a turbine to generate large amounts of electricity.

Using the technique on a large scale could store enough compressed air to meet the UK’s electricity needs during winter, when demand is highest, the study found.

I read about this in today’s copy of The Times, which also says the following.

  • There are suitable areas in the North and Irish Seas that can be used.
  • The rocks could store fifty percent more energy than we used January and February.

As similar technology is being used in salt caverns in Germany and the United States, I feel that the idea has possibilities.

 

January 22, 2019 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

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

Thoughts On a Red And Processed Meat Tax

This article on the BBC is entitled Should There Be A Tax On Red Meat?.

This is the first two paragraphs.

A “meat tax” could prevent almost 6,000 deaths per year in the UK, according to researchers, but should politicians be telling people what they can and can’t eat?

Scientists at the University of Oxford say governments should consider imposing price hikes on red meat – such as beef, lamb and pork – to reduce consumption.

They also go on to suggest these levels of tax, with examples.

In the UK, the study suggests a tax of 14% on red meat and 79% of processed meat.

This would mean the price of a 227g Tesco Sirloin Steak would increase from £3.80 to £4.33.

And for a pack of eight pork sausages from Sainsbury’s the price would increase from £1.50 to £2.69.

It is probably peer-reviewed research, but I doubt it would ever be introduced.

I have few questions.

Would I As A Coeliac Get Extra Tax Relief, As I Need To Eat Red Meat?

I don’t eat much red meat, but to keep my B12 at a good level, I need to eat a quality steak or burger.

Regular levels of B12 help to keep your immune system strong, which is the body’s first line of defence against cancer.

Why Do Coeliacs On A Gluten Free Diet Have A 25% Less Chance Of Getting Cancer?

Research at Nottingham University has shown this.

Being coeliac is unlikely to be beneficial, as whoever heard of a disease that let you live longer?

,So could it be the non-eating too of gluten?

Also, as many who eat a lot of red and processed meat, eat it with a bun or lots of bread,

Could this be significant?

Research needs to be done that considers consumption of red and processed meat, taking eating gluten into account.

How Would I Reduce Cancer?

There are other substances and circumstances that are proven to cause cancer.

  • Smoking tobacco and other drugs.
  • Eating too much and being obese
  • Drinking too much.
  • Too much sunbathing.
  • Diesel and petrol vehicles
  • Gas appliances in the home, not venting outside.

Some of these also cause other health problems.

I’d start with absolute bans on these.

  • Diesel and petrol vehicles.
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Possession of illegal drugs.
  • Gas appliances in the home, not venting outside.
  • Sales of high strength alcohol.
  • Jobs with a proven record of causing cancer like coal mining.

And these things would be compulsory or introduced.

  • Everybody should keep a record in a smart-phone app of what they ate and their weight.
  • Owning a diesel or petrol vehicle would need a special permit.
  • Alcohol could only be bought in special licensed shops.

Obviously, other draconian measures could be introduced.

I doubt it will ever be acted upon, by any Government that wants to win an election.

So What Can We Do That Is Practical?

My view is that we have to nudge people into doing the right thing.

Diesel And Petrol Taxes To Subsidise Zero-Emission Vehicles

Note that I use the term zero-emission vehicle, which is a category that includes battery and hydrogen power at present. But it is a class, that could include other vehicles in future, that have yet to be invented.

If diesel and petrol taxes were to rise and the revenue were used to subsidise the purchase of zero-emission vehicles, then this might persuade more people to switch to zero-emission vehicles.

Money could also be allocated to research into zero-emission vehicles.

Zero-Emission Zones In All Towns And Cities

London is getting an Ultra Low Emission Zone, but this is only the start.

They should be Zero Emission Zones.

They should probably be paired with parking areas outside the zone and connected to it, by a zero-emission high quality rail or bus link.The link could be a segregated walking or cycling route.

The first town or city that uses this model to create healthy air quality will probably reap an enormous dividend.

From recent developments, I suspect it will be the City of London.

Smoking Would Only Be Allowed By Consenting Adults In Private

As smoking had a lot to do with the death of my son I feel strongly about this.

My wife also may have died from secondary lung cancer. But she had never smoked, although she got enough cigarette smoke from her tutor at University, who chain-smoked Capstan Full Strength.

Is There A Radical Approach?

Liverpool University Pancreatic Cancer Research Unit have one of the most impressive databases I have ever seen! It contains every pancreatic cancer case, that has been notified to the University.

They use it to look for links between factors, that might be a clue to what causes this terrible disease and for possible cures.

But imagine an enormous database of all UK cancer cases, that was processed to show how the cancers related to post codes, occupation, age, weight, smoking and drinking habits etc.

Access to an anonymised version of the database would be allowed through the Internet or a phone app.

Would access to the data, nudge people to change their bad habits?

I also know of ten-year-olds, who pester their parents to stop smoking, so imagine what a tech-savvy child would do, if given access to the app. Schools could teach them to use it responsibly.

Could it bring the whole country together to reduce levels of cancer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 7, 2018 Posted by | Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hydrogen Is Really Happening

The title of this post, is the same as that of this opinion in Energy Voice.

It is a good summary of where we are with hydrogen.

One interesting point of several is that researchers in the US and Spain can extract hydrogen from plastic waste.

This article from FuelCellWorks describes the Spanish research.

That would surely be a real zero-carbon fuel!

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Better Phone Battery Invented By Accident

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

Discussing phone batteries this is said.

Now researchers think they may have found a remedy – a new form of carbon that could double lithium battery capacity, increase the number of charging cycles and significantly reduce the risk of explosion.

Reading the article, it could be that the researchers at Lancaster University may have found the Holy Grail of battery technology.

The Times even gives OSPC-1, as they’ve called the carbon., a leading article.

There’s more on OSPC-1 in this news item on the Lancaster University web site, which is entitled New Carbon Could Signal Step-Change For The World’s Most Popular Batteries.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | World | , , | 2 Comments