The Anonymous Widower

The Great Electric Air Race Has Begun

The title of this post is the first sentence of this article in The Independent, which is entitled Electric Planes: Could You Be Flying On A Battery-Powered Aircraft By 2027?.

This is the full first paragraph in an article by respected travel writer; Simon Calder.

The great electric air race has begun. Three European industry heavyweights have teamed up against a US startup and Britain’s biggest budget airline to develop the first commercial electric aircraft.

So is such an aircraft feasible?

When you consider that the three European heavyweights are Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens, I suspect that the proposed project is serious.

It should also be said that the companies are not aiming for an all-electric aircraft, but a hybrid plane with a very efficient on-board generator and a two-tonne battery.

The key to success will probably include.

  • Batteries with a very high energy density.
  • A highly-efficient and quiet gas turbine, that generates a lot of energy.
  • Radical air-frame design to take advantage of the technology.

In my view, the batteries will be the key, but making more efficient batteries with high charge densities will also do the following.

  • Improve the range and performance of battery and hybrid road vehicles like buses, cars and trucks.
  • Improve the range and performance of trains and trams.
  • Transform energy storage, so wind and solar power can be stored and used in times of high demand.
  • Allow every house, apartment or office to have its own affordable energy storage.

In all of these applications, the weight of the battery will be less of a problem.

This leads me to the conclusion, that we may see smaller electric plasnes in a few years, but the technology that will make it possible, may well improve other modes of transport so much, that electric planes are never an economic proposition.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

I think most travellers and members of the oublic will benefit in some ways.

 

December 3, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Siemens Joins The Hydrogen-Powered Train Club

This article on Global Rail News is entitled Siemens Working On Fuel Cell-Powered Mireo Train.

Siemens Mobility’s Mireo is their next-generation electric multiple unit.

This description is from Wikipedia.

The railcars have an articulated design and aluminium carbodies, with 26 metres (85 ft) cab cars on each end of a trainset and 19 metres (62 ft) passenger cars between them, with trainsets between two and seven cars long. The use of aluminium, combined with new control systems, is intended to reduce energy use by up to 25%. compared to previous Siemens EMUs. The railcars can reach a top speed of up to 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph)

The first units were ordered in February 2017 by DB Regio, which ordered 24 three-car trainsets with a passenger capacity of 220 for service on its routes in the Rhine valley in southwestern Germany.

This train has a lot in common with other offerings from the major train manufacturers.

  • Light weight
  • Articulated design.
  • Sophisticated control systems.
  • Low energy use.

Is it a case of engineering minds thinking alike?

The Global Rail New article says this about the hydrogen-powered trains.

Siemens is partnering up with Canadian manufacturer Ballard Power Systems to develop a fuel cell engine for its new Mireo train platform.

The two companies have signed a Development Agreement to produce a 200 kilowatt fuel cell engine to power a Mireo multiple unit.

The first fuel cell-powered Mireo could be running by 2021, Siemens and Ballard have announced.

There is a page on the Ballard web site, which lists their fuel cell engines called FCVeloCity.

  • FCVeloCity-MD – 30 kW
  • FCVeloCity-HD – 60kW, 85kW, 100kW
  • FCVeloCity-XD – 200 kW

I would assume that as there is no product sheet for the XD, that the 200 kW unit is still in development.

The first application would appear to be the Siemens Mireo.

Is Two Hundred Kilowatt Enough Power?

Bombardier’s four-car Class 387 train, is a typical electric muiltiple unit, that has been built in the last few years.

It has an installed power of 1.68 megawatts or 420 kW per car.

Porterbrook’s brochure says this about the two diesel engines in their Class 769 train, which is a bi-mode conversion of a Class 319 train.

The engine is a MAN D2876 LUE631 engine which generates 390 kW at 1800 rpm, giving an acceptable power output.

So that works out at 195 kW per car.

Both these trains have similar performance to the Siemens Mireo.

  • The trains will be substantially heavier than the Mireo.
  • The trains will do a lot of acceleration under electrification.

The 200 kW of the Mireo, isn’t much compared with the current generation of train.

As with the Alstom Coradio iLint, that I wrote about in Is Hydrogen A Viable Fuel For Rail Applications?, I suspect the Mireo has the following features.

  • Use of batteries to store energy.
  • Regenerative braking will use the batteries.
  • Selective use of electrification to drive the train directly.
  • Intelligent control systems to select appropriate power.

Given that the light weight will also help in the energy-expensive process of electrification, the intelligent control system is probably the key to making this train possible.

Will The Train Have One Or Two Hydrogen Power Units?

Wikipedia says this about the layout of the train.

The railcars have an articulated design and aluminium carbodies, with 26 metres (85 ft) cab cars on each end of a trainset and 19 metres (62 ft) passenger cars between them, with trainsets between two and seven cars long.

The trend these days in modern trains, is to fit large numbers of axles with traction motors for fast acceleration and smooth regenerative braking. As an Electrical Engineer, I believe that the most efficient electrical layout, would be for any car with motors to have some form of energy storage.

Have Siemens designed the train to use two identical cab cars?

  • These are longer to meet higher crash-protection standards.
  • Any diesel or hydrogen generator would be in these cars.
  • Energy storage would be provided.

Two cab cars with generators would have 400 kW, which would be more likely to be an acceptable power level.

Would the intermediate passenger cars be powered or just trailer cars?

I very much believe that the ideal intermediate cars should be powered and have a battery for regenerative braking.

Will Other Companies Join The Hydrogen Club?

Alstom, who are merging their train business with Siemens have announced orders for the Coradia iLint, so they are obviously a full-paid up member.

Bombardier have said nothing, but like Ballard, they are a Canadian company.

The key though, is that modern intelligent train control systems, which are used by all train manufacturers, have been designed to do the following.

  • Select appropriate power from electrification, battery or an on-board diesel generator.
  • Deploy pantograph and third-rail shoe as required.
  • Drive the train in an efficient manner.

Just swap the diesel generator for a hydrogen one.

Having a light weight, energy efficient train design will also help.

Conclusion

Expect hydrogen-powered trains from most manufacturers.

 

 

 

November 16, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Why Do UK Train Operating Companies Dislike Siemens Trains?

This post was suggested by this article on Global Rail News, which is entitled TransPennine Express Class 397 Fleet Taking Shape.

The following sections describe how the various train companies are replacing their trains built by Siemens.

TransPennine Express

TransPennine Express (TPE) currently have two fleets of Siemens trains; Class 350 and Class 185 trains.

Class 350 trains

TPE currently has a fleet of ten four-car Class 350 trains, which were built by Siemens and are used on electrified services between Manchester Airport and Scotland. They are being replaced by twelve five-car Class 397 trains.

The comparison between the two trains gives clues as to why the fleet is being replaced.

  • The Class 397 trains are 125 mph capable, which means they can mix it with the Virgin’s Class 390 Pendelinos of a similar performance.
  • The Class 350 trains are only capable of 110 mph.
  • The fleet needed to be increased in number to handle services between Liverpool and Scotland.
  • The five-car Class 397 trains fit the capacity needed for the Scottish routes better than the four-car Class 350 trains.
  • The Class 350 trains don’t have wi-fi/4G and power-points to the current standard on some of the latest trains, like the Aventra.

I’ve not ridden in these trains, so I can’t comment on their quality.

I suspect it’s that the Class 397 trains have the 125 mph capability and adding another 110 mph train from Liverpool to Scotland would be too much for the West Coast Main Line to handle.

If you look at the current scheduled times of Virgin and TPE between Wigan North Western and Glasgow and Scotland, you get the following.

  • Virgin – Wigan North Western to Glasgow – 2 hours 31 minutes
  • TPE – Wigan North Western to Glasgow – 2 hours 46 minutes
  • Virgin – Wigan North Western to Edinburgh – 2 hours 39 minutes
  • TPE – Wigan North Western to Edinburgh – 2 hours 53 minutes

So it looks like the new 125 mph trains could save around fifteen minutes on a journey between North West England and Scotland. In addition to the quicker journey time for passengers, it might mean that TPE can use their trains more efficiently.

Nothing has been said, but I suspect that the new Class 397 trains can couple and uncouple automatically, as the Class 395 trains do regularly.

This would allow TPE to run a service like this.

  • Two five-car trains start independently from Liverpool and Manchester Airport.
  • The trains would couple together at Wigan North Western or Preston.
  • They would then run to Carstairs at 125 mph.
  • The trains would then split.
  • One train would go to Glasgow and the other would go to Edinburgh.

The Southbound service would reverse the process.

In the 1960s, I travelled from Glasgow to Manchester on a service like this. T remember, that I was very late into Manchester, as we were delayed at Carstairs by the late arrival of the train from Edinburgh.

It looks to me, that TPE have decided to replace their Class 350 trains, with a faster and more flexible fleet, that can be run according to passenger demand.

Class 185 Trains

TPE also have a fleet of fifty-one three-car Class 185 trains, that were built by Siemens in 2005-2006.

These trains were in some ways very badly-specified for the route and have some deficiencies.

  • There are not enough of them and they suffer badly from overcrowding.
  • They are 100 mph trains, which means they are inadequate on the West Coast and East Coast Main Lines.
  • They lack wi-fi and power sockets.
  • They are diesel trains, that sometimes work on electrified lines, like Liverpool to Manchester and Leeds to Newxastle.

It is no surprise that TPE have decided to replace twenty-two of the Class 185 trains with Class 68 locomotive-hauled Mark 5 coaches and Class 802 trains.

  • This gives a twenty-seven percent increase in the number of carriages.
  • The Class 802 trains are 125 mph capable, so will be very handy for Liverpool to Newcastle and in a few years time to Edinburgh.
  • The coaches are also built to be capable of 125 mph, but they would need faster locomotives to run at that speed.
  • The new fleet will have the wi-fi and power sockets that passengers require.

This new fleet will certainly be better suited to TPE’s needs.

Greater Anglia

Greater Anglia are replacing all their trains, including their fleet of twenty-one four-car Class 360 trains, that were built by Siemens in 2002-2003.

However, in the August 30th Edition of Rail Magazine, there is an article entitled Trio Of Class 360 Desiros Reach Norwich For GA Timing Test.

It appears that, as the fastest trains in Greater Anglia’s fleet, they are being tested in case the new Class 745 trains are not ready before January 1st, 2020, when the Mark 3 coaches have to be retired.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway have a mixed fleet, which includes a lot of trains built by Siemens.

Class 707 Trains

South Western Railway (SWR) are still taking deliveries from Siemens of a fleet of thirty five-car Class 707 trains, that they inherited from South West Trains.

However, they have decided to replace the trains and their Class 455 trains with new Aventras.

I think that the main reason for having a fleet of 100 mph suburban trains, is that they get lots of advantages when it comes to creating passenger-friendly timetables.

 

But there are other reasons.

  • SWR have said that all their trains will have toilets. The Class 707 trains don’t.
  • The new fleet contains a lot of ten-car trains, whereas the Class 707 trains are all five cars.
  • If all the trains are identical, this must give advantages with respect to management of trains and staff.

It looks to me, that South West Trains choice of fleet wasn’t in tune with SWR’s philosophy.

The Return Of The Class 442 Trains

Surprisingly, SWR are bringing back thirty-year-old Class 442 trains for the London to Portsmouth routes.

SWR probably need more trains to augment their forty-five Class 444 trains and a hundred plus Class 450 trains, which were all built by Siemens around the turn of the millennium.

Refurbishing the Class 442 trains is probably more affordable than ordering more trains from Siemens.

They can also be fitted with wi-fi, which the Class 444 and Class 450 trains lack.

West Midlands Trains

West Midlands Trains will takeover from London Midland in December 2017.

Currently, London Midland operate seventy-seven four-car Class 350 trains, built by Siemens in 2004-2014.

West Midlands Trains have promised to introduce 225 new carriages on Euston services.

As these trains work on the West Coast Main Line will they be 125 mph units like the Class 397 trains, so they can mix it with the Pendelinos?

Whatever happens, it does seem that the 100-110 mph Class 350 trains without wi-fi, may be living on borrowed time.

Thameslink

Thameslink is now a rail line run exclusively by Class 700 trains, built by Siemens in the last few years.

The trains were ordered without wi-fi and passengers are often critical of the trains.

In my opinion, the trains are inferior to Crossrail’s Class 345 trains, which have both wi-fi and 4G connectivity.

Conclusions

When I travel in a train that Siemens have built for the UK network, I often feel disappointed and think that they could have done better.

Perhaps the exceptions are South Western Railway’s Class 444 and Class 450 trains, but they lack wi-fi. These trains were built some years ago before it had been invented.

Wi-Fi

The Department for Transport now insists that passengers get free wi-fi and Crossrail is throwing in 4G connectivity as well.

I’m not sure, if there’s a Siemens train in the UK with wi-fi.

But then most trains in Germany have very poor wi-fi in my experience.

Could the design of Siemens trains make fitting of wi-fi and UK-sized power sockets difficult?

Contracts

Most trains these days are leased on long-term contracts, which includes maintenance. Could this cause problems with updating trains?

With the old BR-era trains, there are several depots and factories where trains can be updated and Bombardier seem to update their old tranis regularly at Derby. So is Siemens unprepared to update its older trains on the UK network?

The Aventras Are Coming

The first Class 345 trains are appearing with a quiet and smooth ride, excellent performance and wi-fi and 4G connectivity.

Siemens will have to raise their game to compete.

 

September 6, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment