The Anonymous Widower

Solving The Electrification Conundrum

The title of this post, is the same as an article in the July 2021 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the introductory sub-heading.

Regional and rural railways poses a huge problem for the railway to decarbonise.

Lorna McDonald of Hitachi Rail and Jay Mehta of Hitachi ABB Power Grids tell Andy Roden why they believe they have the answer.

These are my thoughts on what is said.

Battery-Electric Trains

The article starts by giving a review of battery-electric trains and their use on routes of moderate but important length.

  • Some short routes can be handled with just a charge on an electrified main line.
  • Some will need a recharge at the termini.
  • Other routes might need a recharge at some intermediate stations, with a possible increase in dwell times.

It was in February 2015, that I wrote Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?, after a ride in public service on Bombardier’s test battery-electric train based on a Class 379 train.

I also wrote this in the related post.

Returning from Harwich, I travelled with the train’s on-board test engineer, who was monitoring the train performance in battery mode on a laptop. He told me that acceleration in this mode was the same as a standard train, that the range was up to sixty miles and that only minimal instruction was needed to convert a driver familiar to the Class 379 to this battery variant.

It was an impressive demonstration, of how a full-size train could be run in normal service without connection to a power supply. I also suspect that the partners in the project must be very confident about the train and its technology to allow paying passengers to travel on their only test train.

A couple of years later, I met a lady on another train, who’d used the test train virtually every day during the trial and she and her fellow travellers felt that it was as good if not better than the normal service from a Class 360 train or a Class 321 train.

So why if the engineering, customer acceptance and reliability were proven six years ago, do we not have several battery electric trains in service?

  • There is a proven need for battery-electric trains on the Marshlink Line and the Uckfield Branch in Sussex.
  • The current Class 171 trains are needed elsewhere, so why are no plans in place for replacement trains?
  • The government is pushing electric cars and buses, but why is there such little political support for battery-electric trains?

It’s almost as if, an important civil servant in the decision process has the naive belief that battery-electric trains won’t work and if they do, they will be phenomenally expensive. So the answer is an inevitable no!

Only in the South Wales Metro, are battery-electric trains considered to be part of the solution to create a more efficient and affordable electric railway.

But as I have constantly pointed out since February 2015 in this blog, battery-electric trains should be one of the innovations we use to build a better railway.

Hydrogen Powered Trains

The article says this about hydrogen powered trains.

Hybrid hydrogen fuel cells can potentially solve the range problem, but at the cost of the fuel eating up internal capacity that would ideally be used for passengers. (and as Industry and Technology Editor Roger Ford points out, at present hydrogen is a rather dirty fuel). By contrast, there is no loss of seating or capacity in a Hitachi battery train.

I suspect the article is referring to the Alstom train, which is based on the technology of the Alstom Coradia iLint.

I have ridden this train.

  • It works reliably.
  • It runs on a 100 km route.
  • The route is partially electrified, but the train doesn’t have a pantograph.
  • It has a very noisy mechanical transmission.

Having spoken to passengers at length, no-one seemed bothered by the Hindenburg possibilities.

It is certainly doing some things right, as nearly fifty trains have been ordered for train operating companies in Germany.

Alstom’s train for the UK is the Class 600 train, which will be converted from a four-car Class 321 train.

Note.

  1. Half of both driver cars is taken up by a hydrogen tank.
  2. Trains will be three-cars.
  3. Trains will be able to carry as many passengers as a two-car Class 156 train.

It is an inefficient design that can be improved upon.

Porterbrook and Birmingham University appear to have done that with their Class 799 train.

  • It can use 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • The hydrogen tanks, fuel cell and other hydrogen gubbins are under the floor.

This picture from Network Rail shows how the train will appear at COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Now that’s what I call a train! Let alone a hydrogen train!

Without doubt, Porterbrook and their academic friends in Birmingham will be laying down a strong marker for hydrogen at COP26!

I know my hydrogen, as my first job on leaving Liverpool University with my Control Engineering degree in 1968 was for ICI at Runcorn, where I worked in a plant that electrolysed brine into hydrogen, sodium hydroxide and chlorine.

My life went full circle last week, when I rode this hydrogen powered bus in London.

The hydrogen is currently supplied from the same chemical works in Runcorn, where I worked. But plans have been made at Runcorn, to produce the hydrogen from renewable energy, which would make the hydrogen as green hydrogen of the highest standard. So sorry Roger, but totally carbon-free hydrogen is available.

The bus is a Wightbus Hydroliner FCEV and this page on the Wrightbus web site gives the specification. The specification also gives a series of cutaway drawings, which show how they fit 86 passengers, all the hydrogen gubbins and a driver into a standard size double-deck bus.

I believe that Alstom’s current proposal is not a viable design, but I wouldn’t say that about the Porterbrook/Birmingham University design.

Any Alternative To Full Electrification Must Meet Operator And Customer Expectations

This is a paragraph from the article.

It’s essential that an alternative traction solution offers the same levels of performance and frequency, while providing an increase in capacity and being economically viable.

In performance, I would include reliability. As the on-board engineer indicated on the Bombardier  test train on the Harwich branch, overhead electrification is not totally reliable, when there are winds and/or criminals about.

Easy Wins

Hitachi’s five-car Class 800 trains and Class 802 trains each have three diesel engines and run the following short routes.

  • Kings Cross and Middlesbrough- 21 miles not electrified – Changeover in Northallerton station
  • Kings Cross and Lincoln – 16.6 miles not electrified – Changeover in Newark Northgate station
  • Paddington and Bedwyn – 13.3 miles not electrified – Changeover in Newbury station
  • Paddington and Oxford – 10.3 miles not electrified – Changeover in Didcot Parkway station

Some of these routes could surely be run with a train, where one diesel engine was replaced by a battery-pack.

As I’m someone, who was designing, building and testing plug-compatible transistorised electronics in the 1960s to replace  older valve-based equipment in a heavy engineering factory, I suspect that creating a plug-compatible battery-pack that does what a diesel engine does in terms of power and performance is not impossible.

What would be the reaction to passengers, once they had been told, they had run all the way to or from London without using any diesel?

Hopefully, they’d come again and tell their friends, which is what a train operator wants and needs.

Solving The Electrification Conundrum

This section is from the article.

Where electrification isn’t likely to be a viable proposition, this presents a real conundrum to train operators and rolling stock leasing companies.

This is why Hitachi Rail and Hitachi ABB Power Grids are joining together to present a combined battery train and charging solution to solve this conundrum. In 2020, Hitachi and ABB’s Power Grids business, came together in a joint venture, and an early outcome of this is confidence that bringing together their expertise in rail, power and grid management, they can work together to make electrification simpler cheaper and quicker.

I agree strongly with the second paragraph, as several times, I’ve been the mathematician and simulation expert in a large multi-disciplinary engineering project, that went on to be very successful.

The Heart Of The Proposition

This is a paragraph from the article.

The proposition is conceptually simple. Rather than have extended dwell times at stations for battery-powered trains, why not have a short stretch of 25 KVAC overhead catenary (the exact length will depend on the types of train and the route) which can charge trains at linespeed on the move via a conventional pantograph?

The article also mentions ABB’s related expertise.

  • Charging buses all over Europe.
  • Creating the power grid for the Great Western Electrification to Cardiff.

I like the concept, but then it’s very similar to what I wrote in The Concept Of Electrification Islands in April 2020.

But as they are electrical power engineers and I’m not, they’d know how to create the system.

Collaboration With Hyperdrive Innovation

The article has nothing negative to say about the the collaboration with Hyperdrive Innovation to produce the battery-packs.

Route Modelling

Hitachi appear to have developed a sophisticated route modelling system, so that routes and charging positions can be planned.

I would be very surprised if they hadn’t developed such a system.

Modular And Scalable

This is a paragraph from the article.

In the heart of the system is a containerised modular solution containing everything needed to power a stretch of overhead catenary to charge trains. A three-car battery train might need one of these, but the great advantage is that it is scalable to capacity and speed requirements.

This all sounds very sensible and can surely cope with a variety of lines and traffic levels.

It also has the great advantage , that if a line is eventually electrified, the equipment can be moved on to another line.

Financing Trains And Chargers

The article talks about the flexibility of the system from an operator’s point of view with respect to finance.

I’ve had some good mentors in the area of finance and I know innovative finance contributed to the success of Metier Management Systems, the project management company I started with three others in 1977.

After selling Metier, I formed an innovative finance company, which would certainly have liked the proposition put forward in the article.

No Compromise, Little Risk

I would agree with this heading of the penultimate section of the article.

In February 2015, when I rode that Class 379 train between Manningtree and Harwich, no compromise had been made by Bombardier and it charged in the electrified bay platform at Manningtree.

But why was that train not put through an extensive route-proving exercise in the UK after the successful trial at Manningtree?

  • Was it the financial state of Bombardier?
  • Was it a lack of belief on the part of politicians, who were too preoccupied with Brexit?
  • Was it that an unnamed civil servant didn’t like the concept and stopped the project?

Whatever the reason, we have wasted several years in getting electric trains accepted on UK railways.

If no compromise needs to be made to create a battery-electric train, that is equivalent to the best-in-class diesel or electric multiple units, then what about the risk?

The beauty of Hitachi’s battery-electric train project is that it can be done in phases designed to minimise risk.

Phase 1 – Initial Battery Testing 

Obviously, there will be a lot of bench testing in a laboratory.

But I also believe that if the Class 803 trains are fitted with a similar battery from Hyperdrive Innovation, then this small fleet of five trains can be used to test a lot of the functionality of the batteries initially in a test environment and later in a real service environment.

The picture shows a Class 803 train under test through Oakleigh Park station.

This phase would be very low risk, especially where passengers are concerned.

Phase 2 – Battery Traction Testing And Route Proving

I am a devious bastard, when it comes to software development. The next set of features would always be available for me to test earlier, than anybody else knew.

I doubt that the engineers at Hyperdrive Innovation will be any different.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the batteries in the Class 803 trains can also be used for traction, if you have the right authority.

We might even see Class 803 trains turning up in some unusual places to test the traction abilities of the batteries.

As East Coast Trains, Great Western Railway and Hull Trains are all First Group companies, I can’t see any problems.

I’m also sure that Hitachi could convert some Class 800 or Class 802 trains and add these to the test fleet, if East Coast Trains need their Class 803 trains to start service.

This phase would be very low risk, especially where passengers are concerned.

Possibly, the worse thing, that could happen would be a battery failure, which would need the train to be rescued.

Phase 3 – Service Testing On Short Routes

As I indicated earlier, there are some easy routes between London and places like Bedwyn, Lincoln, Middlesbrough and Oxford, that should be possible with a Class 800 or Class 802 train fitted with the appropriate number of batteries.

Once the trains have shown, the required level of performance and reliability, I can see converted Class 800, 801 and Class 802 trains entering services on these and other routes.

Another low risk phase, although passengers are involved, but they are probably subject to the same risks, as on an unmodified train.

Various combinations of diesel generators and batteries could be used to find out, what is the optimum combination for the typical diagrams that train operators use.

Hitachi didn’t commit to any dates, but I can see battery-electric trains running on the Great Western Railway earlier than anybody thinks.

Phase 4 – Service Testing On Medium Routes With A Terminal Charger System

It is my view that the ideal test route for battery-electric trains with a terminal charger system would be the Hull Trains service between London Kings Cross and Hull and Beverley.

The route is effectively in three sections.

  • London Kings Cross and Temple Hirst junction – 169.2 miles – Full Electrification
  • Temple Hirst junction and Hull station – 36.1 miles – No Electrification
  • Hull station and Beverley station – 8.3 miles – No Electrification

Two things would be needed to run zero-carbon electric trains on this route.

  • Sufficient battery capacity in Hull Trains’s Class 802 trains to reliably handle the 36.1 miles between Temple Hirst junction and Hull station.
  • A charging system in Hull station.

As Hull station also handles other Class 800 and Class 802 trains, there will probably be a need to put a charging system in more than one platform.

Note.

  1. Hull station has plenty of space.
  2. No other infrastructure work would be needed.
  3. There is a large bus interchange next door, so I suspect the power supply to Hull station is good.

Hull would be a very good first destination for a battery-electric InterCity train.

Others would include Bristol, Cheltenham, Chester, Scarborough, Sunderland and Swansea.

The risk would be very low, if the trains still had some diesel generator capacity.

Phase 5 – Service Testing On Long Routes With Multiple Charger Systems

Once the performance and reliability of the charger systems have been proven in single installations like perhaps Hull and Swansea stations, longer routes can be prepared for electric trains.

This press release from Hitachi is entitled Hitachi And Eversholt Rail To Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings Of More Than 20%.

The press release talks about Penzance and London, so would that be a suitable route for discontinuous electrification using multiple chargers?

These are the distances between major points on the route between Penzance and London Paddington.

  • Penzance and Truro – 35.8 miles
  • Truro and Bodmin Parkway – 26.8 miles
  • Bodmin Parkway and Plymouth – 26.9 miles
  • Plymouth and Newton Abbot – 31,9 miles
  • Newton Abbot and Exeter – 20.2 miles
  • Exeter and Taunton – 30.8 miles
  • Taunton and Westbury – 47.2 miles
  • Westbury and Newbury – 42.5 miles
  • Newbury and Paddington – 53 miles

Note.

  1. Only Newbury and Paddington is electrified.
  2. Trains generally stop at Plymouth, Newton Abbott, Exeter and Taunton.
  3. Services between Paddington and Exeter, Okehampton, Paignton, Penzance, Plymouth and Torquay wouldn’t use diesel.
  4. Okehampton would be served by a reverse at Exeter.
  5. As Paignton is just 8.1 miles from Newton Abbot, it probably wouldn’t need a charger.
  6. Bodmin is another possible destination, as Great Western Railway have helped to finance a new platform at Bodmin General station.

It would certainly be good marketing to run zero-carbon electric trains to Devon and Cornwall.

I would class this route as medium risk, but with a high reward for the operator.

In this brief analysis, it does look that Hitachi’s proposed system is of a lower risk.

A Few Questions

I do have a few questions.

Are The Class 803 Trains Fitted With Hyperdrive Innovation Batteries?

East Coast Trains‘s new Class 803 trains are undergoing testing between London Kings Cross and Edinburgh and they can be picked up on Real Time Trains.

Wikipedia says this about the traction system for the trains.

While sharing a bodyshell with the previous UK A-train variants, the Class 803 differs in that it has no diesel engines fitted. They will however be fitted with batteries to enable the train’s on-board services to be maintained, in case the primary electrical supplies have failed.

Will these emergency batteries be made by Hyperdrive Innovation?

My experience of similar systems in other industries, points me to the conclusion, that all Class 80x trains can be fitted with similar, if not identical batteries.

This would give the big advantage of allowing battery testing to be performed on Class 803 trains under test, up and down the East Coast Main Line.

Nothing finds faults in the design and manufacture of something used in transport, than to run it up and down in real conditions.

Failure of the catenary can be simulated to check out emergency modes.

Can A Class 801 Train Be Converted Into A Class 803 Train?

If I’d designed the trains, this conversion would be possible.

Currently, the electric Class 801 trains have a single diesel generator. This is said in the Wikipedia entry for the Class 800 train about the Class 801 train.

These provide emergency power for limited traction and auxiliaries if the power supply from the overhead line fails.

So it looks like the difference between the powertrain of a Class 801 train and a Class 803 train, is that the Class 801 train has a diesel generator and the Class 803 train has batteries. But the diesel generator and batteries, would appear to serve the same purpose.

Surely removing diesel from a Class 801 train would ease the maintenance of the train!

Will The System Work With Third-Rail Electrification?

There are three routes that if they were electrified would probably be electrified with 750 DC third-rail electrification, as they have this electrification at one or both ends.

  • Basingstoke and Exeter
  • Marshlink Line
  • Uckfield branch

Note.

  1. Basingstoke and Exeter would need a couple of charging systems.
  2. The Marshlink line would need a charging system at Rye station.
  3. The Uckfield branch would need a charging system at Uckfield station.

I am fairly certain as an Electrical Engineer, that the third-rails would only need to be switched on, when a train is connected and needs a charge.

I also feel that on some scenic and other routes, 750 VDC third-rail electrification may be more acceptable , than 25 KVAC  overhead electrification. For example, would the heritage lobby accept overhead wires through a World Heritage Site or on top of a Grade I Listed viaduct?

I do feel that the ability to use third-rail 750 VDC third-rail electrification strategically could be a useful tool in the system.

Will The System Work With Lightweight Catenary?

I like the design of this 25 KVAC overhead electrification, that uses lightweight gantries, which use laminated wood for the overhead structure.

There is also a video.

Electrification doesn’t have to be ugly and out-of-character with the surroundings.

Isuspect that both systems could work together.

 

Would Less Bridges Need To Be Rebuilt For Electrification?

This is always a contentious issue with electrification, as rebuilding bridges causes disruption to both rail and road.

I do wonder though by the use of careful design, that it might be possible to arrange that the sections of electrification and the contentious bridges were kept apart, with the bridges arranged to be in sections, where the trains ran on batteries.

I suspect that over the years as surveyors and engineers get more experienced, better techniques will evolve to satisfy all parties.

Get this right and it could reduce the cost of electrification on some lines, that will be difficult to electrify.

How Secure Are The Containerised Systems?

Consider.

  • I was delayed in East Anglia two years ago, because someone stole the overhead wires at two in the morning.
  • Apparently, overhead wire stealing is getting increasingly common in France and other parts of Europe.

I suspect the containerised systems will need to be more secure than those used for buses, which are not in isolated locations.

Will The Containerised Charging Systems Use Energy Storage?

Consider.

  • I’ve lived in rural locations and the power grids are not as good as in urban areas.
  • Increasingly, batteries of one sort or another are being installed in rural locations to beef up local power supplies.
  • A new generation of small-footprint eco-friendly energy storage systems are being developed.

In some locations, it might be prudent for a containerised charging system to share a battery with the local area.

Will The Containerised Charging Systems Accept Electricity From Local Sources Like Solar Farms?

I ask the question, as I know at least one place on the UK network, where a line without electrification runs through a succession of solar farms.

I also know of an area, where a locally-owned co-operative is planning a solar farm, which they propose would be used to power the local main line.

Will The System Work With Class 385 Trains?

Hitachi’s Class 385 trains are closely related to the Class 80x trains, as they are all members of Hitachi’s A-Train family.

Will the Charging Systems Charge Other Manufacturers Trains?

CAF and Stadler are both proposing to introduce battery-electric trains in the UK.

I also suspect that the new breed of electric parcel trains will include a battery electric variant.

As these trains will be able to use 25 KVAC overhead electrification, I would expect, that they would be able to charge their batteries on the Hitachi ABB  charging systems.

Will The System Work With Freight Trains?

I believe that freight services will split into two.

Heavy freight will probably use powerful hydrogen-electric locomotives.

In Freightliner Secures Government Funding For Dual-Fuel Project, which is based on a Freightliner press release, I detail Freightliner’s decarbonisation strategy, which indicates that in the future they will use hydrogen-powered locomotives.

But not all freight is long and extremely heavy and I believe that a battery-electric freight locomotive will emerge for lighter duties.

There is no reason it could not be designed to be compatible with Hitachi’s charging system.

In Is This The Shape Of Freight To Come?, I talked about the plans for 100 mph parcel services based on redundant electric multiple units. Eversholt Rail Group have said they want a Last-Mile capability for their version of these trains.

Perhaps they need a battery-electric capability, so they can deliver parcels and shop supplies to the remoter parts of these islands?

Where Could Hitachi’s System Be Deployed?

This is the final paragraph from the article.

Hitachi is not committing to any routes yet, but a glance at the railway map shows clear potential for the battery/OLE-technology to be deployed on relatively lightly used rural and regional routes where it will be hard to make a case for electrification. The Cambrian Coast and Central Wales Lines would appear to be worthy candidates, and in Scotland, the West Highland Line and Far North routes are also logical areas for the system to be deployed.

In England, while shorter branch lines could simply be operated by battery trains, longer routes need an alternative. Network Rail’s Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy interim business case recommends hydrogen trains for branch lines in Norfolk, as well as Par to Newquay and Exeter to Barnstaple. However, it is also entirely feasible to use the system on routes likely to be electrified much later in the programme, such as the Great Western main line West of Exeter, Swansea to Fishguard and parts of the Cumbrian Coast Line.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and mine would be driven by high collateral benefits and practicality.

These are my thoughts.

Long Rural Lines

The Cambrian, Central Wales (Heart Of Wales), Far North and West Highland Lines may not be connected to each other, but they form a group of rail routes with a lot of shared characteristics.

  • All are rural routes of between 100 and 200 miles.
  • All are mainly single track.
  • They carry occasional freight trains.
  • They carry quite a few tourists, who are there to sample, view or explore the countryside.
  • All trains are diesel.
  • Scotrail have been experimenting with attaching Class 153 trains to the trains on the West Highland Line to act as lounge cars and cycle storage.

Perhaps we need a long-distance rural train with the following characteristics.

  • Four or possibly five cars
  • Battery-electric power
  • Space for a dozen cycles
  • A lounge car
  • Space for a snack trolley
  • Space to provide a parcels service to remote locations.

I should also say, that I’ve used trains on routes in countries like Germany, Poland and Slovenia, where a similar train requirement exists.

Norfolk Branch Lines

Consider.

  • North of the Cambridge and Ipswich, the passenger services on the branch lines and the important commuter routes between Cambridge and Norwich and Ipswich are run by Stadler Class 755 trains, which are designed to be converted to battery-electric trains.
  • Using Hitachi chargers at Beccles, Bury St. Edmunds, Lowestoft, Thetford and Yarmouth and the existing electrification, battery-electric Class 755 trains could provide a zero-carbon train service for Norfolk and Suffolk.
  • With chargers at Dereham and March, two important new branch lines could be added and the Ipswich and Peterborough service could go hourly and zero carbon.
  • Greater Anglia have plans to use the Class 755 trains to run a London and Lowestoft service.
  • Could they be planning a London and Norwich service via Cambridge?
  • Would battery-electric trains running services over Norfolk bring in more visitors by train?

Hitachi may sell a few chargers to Greater Anglia, but I feel they have enough battery-electric trains.

Par And Newquay

The Par and Newquay Line or the Atlantic Coast Line, has been put forward as a Beeching Reversal project, which I wrote about in Beeching Reversal – Transforming The Newquay Line.

In that related post, I said the line needed the following.

  • An improved track layout.
  • An hourly service.
  • An improved Par station.
  • A rebuilt Newquay station with a second platform, so that more through trains can be run.

I do wonder, if after the line were to be improved, that a new three-car battery-electric train shuttling between Par and Newquay stations could be the icing on the cake.

Exeter And Barnstaple

The Tarka Line between Exeter and Barnstaple is one of several local and main lines radiating from Exeter St. David’s station.

  • The Avocet Line to Exmouth
  • The Great Western Main Line to Taunton, Bristol and London
  • The Great Western Main Line to Newton Abbott, Plymouth and Penzance
  • The Riviera Line to Paignton
  • The West of England Line to Salisbury, Basingstoke and London.

Note.

  1. The Dartmoor Line to Okehampton is under development.
  2. Several new stations are planned on the routes.
  3. I have already stated that Exeter could host a charging station between London and Penzance, but it could also be an electrified hub for battery-electric trains running hither and thither.

Exeter could be a city with a battery-electric metro.

Exeter And Penzance

Earlier, I said that I’d trial multiple chargers between Paddington and Penzance to prove the concept worked.

I said this.

I would class this route as medium risk, but with a high reward for the operator.

But it is also an enabling route, as it would enable the following battery-electric services.

  • London and Bodmin
  • London and Okehampton
  • London and Paignton and Torquay

It would also enable the Exeter battery-electric metro.

For these reasons, this route should be electrified using Hitachi’s discontinuous electrification.

Swansea And Fishguard

I mentioned Swansea earlier, as a station, that could be fitted with a charging system, as this would allow battery-electric trains between Paddington and Swansea via Cardiff.

Just as with Exeter, there must be scope at Swansea to add a small number of charging systems to develop a battery-electric metro based on Swansea.

Cumbrian Coast Line

This is a line that needs improvement, mainly for the tourists and employment it could and probably will bring.

These are a few distances.

  • West Coast Main Line (Carnforth) and Barrow-in-Furness – 28.1 miles
  • Barrow-in-Furness and Sellafield – 25 miles
  • Sellafield and Workington – 18 miles
  • Workington and West Coast Main Line (Carlisle) – 33 miles

Note.

  1. The West Coast Main Line is fully-electrified.
  2. I suspect that Barrow-in-Furness, Sellafield and Workington have good enough electricity supplies to support charging systems  for the Cumbrian Coast Line.
  3. The more scenic parts of the line would be left without wires.

It certainly is a line, where a good case for running battery-electric trains can be made.

Crewe And Holyhead

In High-Speed Low-Carbon Transport Between Great Britain And Ireland, I looked at zero-carbon travel between the Great Britain and Ireland.

One of the fastest routes would be a Class 805 train between Euston and Holyhead and then a fast catamaran to either Dublin or a suitable rail-connected port in the North.

  • The Class 805 trains could be made battery-electric.
  • The trains could run between Euston and Crewe at speeds of up to 140 mph under digital signalling.
  • Charging systems would probably be needed at Chester, Llandudno Junction and Holyhead.
  • The North Wales Coast Line looks to my untrained eyes, that it could support at least some 100 mph running.

I believe that a time of under three hours could be regularly achieved between London Euston and Holyhead.

Battery-electric trains on this route, would deliver the following benefits.

  • A fast low-carbon route from Birmingham, London and Manchester to the island of Ireland. if coupled with the latest fast catamarans at Holyhead.
  • Substantial reductions in journey times to and from Anglesey and the North-West corner of Wales.
  • Chester could become a hub for battery-electric trains to and from Birmingham, Crewe, Liverpool, Manchester and Shrewsbury.
  • Battery-electric trains could be used on the Conwy Valley Line.
  • It might even be possible to connect the various railways, heritage railways and tourist attractions in the area with zero-carbon shuttle buses.
  • Opening up of the disused railway across Anglesey.

The economics of this corner of Wales could be transformed.

My Priority Routes

To finish this section, I will list my preferred routes for this method of discontinuous electrification.

  • Exeter and Penzance
  • Swansea and Fishguard
  • Crewe and Holyhead

Note.

  1. Some of the trains needed for these routes have been delivered or are on order.
  2. Local battery-electric services could be developed at Chester, Exeter and Swansea by building on the initial systems.
  3. The collateral benefits could be high for Anglesey, West Wales and Devon and Cornwall.

I suspect too, that very little construction work not concerned with the installation of the charging systems will be needed.

Conclusion

Hitachi have come up with a feasible way to electrify Great Britain’s railways.

I would love to see detailed costings for the following.

  • Adding a battery pack to a Class 800 train.
  • Installing five miles of electrification supported by a containerised charging system.

They could be on the right side for the Treasury.

But whatever the costs, it does appear that the Japanese have gone native, with their version of the Great British Compromise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 9, 2021 Posted by | Design, Energy, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Trimode Class 93 Locomotives Ordered By Rail Operations (UK)

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Stadler and Rail Operations (UK) Ltd have signed a framework agreement for the supply of 30 Class 93 trimode locomotives, with an initial batch of 10 scheduled for delivery in early 2023.

Note that the order may have been a long time coming, but it is now for thirty locomotives. In this article on Rail Magazine from December 2018, which is entitled Rail Operations Fuels its Ambitions With Tri-Mode Class 93s, only ten locomotives were to be ordered.

A Few More Details

This article on Rail Engineer, which is entitled, Re-Engineering Rail Freight, gives a few more details about the operation of the Class 93 locomotives.

It says this about operation in electric mode.

In electric mode, the batteries are charged when braking or from the transformer. As the batteries use the space occupied by the braking resistors in the Class 88, when the batteries are fully charged, the locomotive has only its friction brake.

This about operation in diesel-hybrid mode.

In diesel/battery hybrid mode, the batteries are charged both as the train brakes and by the diesel engine when it is not operating under full load. When the train accelerates, the batteries give it the extra power needed to get up to speed. This is a significant benefit as accelerating a freight train of over 1,000 tonnes up to its operating speed can take several minutes.

This is said about the batteries and their effect on performance.

It has two Lithium Titanate Oxide liquid-cooled battery packs, which have a rapid charge and discharge rate. These each have a 40kWh capacity with a peak power of 200kW. Thus, whilst the train is accelerating, the Class 93 will have a peak power of 1,300kW for up to ten minutes, which is almost twice that of a Class 88 in diesel mode.

The batteries would appear to be quite small when you consider, that Vivarail are talking about 424 KWh in one of their Class 230 trains.

This is said about performance.

As a result, the 86-tonne Class 93 is capable of hauling 1,500 tonnes on non-electrified routes and 2,500 tonnes on electrified routes. With a route availability (RA) of seven, it can be used on most of the rail network.

It may not be the largest of locomotives, but it could have a very high performance.

I have a few thoughts.

Regenerative Braking Performance

The Rail Engineer  article says this about the Class 93 locomotive.

  • The train has a total of 80 kWh of battery storage to store braking energy.
  • The locomotive weighs 86 tonnes
  • It can haul 1,500 tonnes on non-electrified lines.

Using a train weight of 1586 tonnes and Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator, gives a kinetic energy of 8 kWh at 42.6 mph.

Does this mean that the locomotive is designed to trundle around the countryside at around forty mph?

These are timings from Real Time Trains.

  • Haughley Junction and Ely – 40 miles – 60 minutes – 40 mph
  • Werrington Junction and Doncaster – 86 miles – 130 minutes – 40 mph
  • Werrington Junction and Nuneaton – 67 miles – 123 minutes – 32.7 mph
  • Southampton and Oxford – 74 miles – 120 minutes – 37 mph

There will be savings compared to the current diesel timings, with a Class 93 locomotive.

  • Either side of these sections, the locomotive can use electric power to cut pollution, noise and carbon emissions.
  • Stops and starts on sections without electrification will save diesel and cut carbon emissions.
  • The train will be faster on electrified sections.

I also feel that with its smaller diesel engine, it will be able to maintain similar timings to current trains hauled by Class 66, Class 68 and Class 70 locomotives.

It can haul 2,500 tonnes on non-electrified lines.

Assuming a train weight of 2586 tonnes, the train energy at various speeds is as follows.

  • 40 mph – 114 kWh
  • 60 mph – 258 kWh
  • 80 mph – 459 kWh
  • 100 mph – 718 kWh
  • 110 mph – 868 kWh

Am I right to assume that once the batteries are full, the regenerative braking energy can be returned through the catenary to power other trains?

Operation With 750 VDC Third Rail Electrification

Will some locomotives be fitted with third-rail shoes to work into and out of Southampton?

They would not need to use diesel between and Basingstoke.

Access To Ports And Rail Freight Terminals

I recently wrote Rail Access To The Port Of Felixstowe.

Looking in detail at Felixstowe and how trains will serve the port, this was my conclusion.

I very much feel, that the specification of the Class 93 locomotive with its trimode capability is ideal for working to and from ports and freight terminals.

Looking at the specification, I am certain, that these locomotives can haul a heavy freight train out of Felixstowe on diesel, with help from the batteries.

  • The distance without electrification is around fifteen miles.
  • It takes around thirty minutes.
  • It is fairly flat Suffolk countryside with the possible exception of the climb over Spring Road Viaduct.

The batteries would need to be charged and surely in Felixstowe’s case the best way would be to electrify the two single track access routes between Trimley station and the Port.

  • On leaving, the trains would pass Trimley with full batteries.
  • They could also be at line speed after accelerating using the two miles or so of electrification.
  • They could also enter the Port with full batteries, after charging the batteries on the short length of electrification.

The batteries may be large and powerful enough, to enable diesel free operations in the Port.

Does this partially explain the increase in the order for Class 93 locomotives? There’s not really been a genuine Last-Mile locomotive in the UK before.

Enabling Carbon-Free Ports And Rail Freight Terminals

Regularly, I read reports of ports wanting to do carbon-free.

Class 93 locomotives can help the process, by not using their diesel engines in ports and rail freight terminals.

It might just need a short length of electrification between the port or terminal and the main line, to make sure batteries are fully-charged.

But not at London Gateway!

This Google Map shows the couple of kilometres of track without electrification, that connects London Gateway to the electrified route through East Tilbury station.

London Gateway would appear to be ready for low or possibly zero-carbon access, using Class 93 locomotives.

High Speed Freight Trains

Consider.

  • These Class 93 locomotives will have an operating speed of 110 mph, when running on electrified lines.
  • Currently, many multimode freight trains run at speeds of under 90 mph, as Class 66 locomotives don’t have the power to go faster and the wagons carrying the containers have a lower speed limit.

So with new or refurbished wagons capable of travelling at 110 mph, there will be speed improvements in some containerised freight.

As an example of what happens on the UK rail network, at the present time, I have found a freight train that goes between Felixstowe and Coatbridge near Glasgow,

  • The route is via Ipswich, London, The North London Line and the West Coast Main Line.
  • It can weigh 1600 tonnes.
  • The distance is 483 miles.
  • The service takes around 16 hours.
  • With the exception of between Felixstowe and Ipswich, the route is fully electrified.

I estimate that if this service could run at up to 100 mph on the Great Eastern Main Line and up to 110 mph on the West Coast Main Line, that several hours could be saved.

Electrification Gap Bridging

As I indicated earlier, I believe these Class 93 locomotives will be able to haul a freight train out of Felixstowe to the electrified Great Eastern Main Line.

In Thoughts On A Battery/Electric Replacement For A Class 66 Locomotive, I gave a list of typical gaps in the electrification in the UK.

  • Didcot and Birmingham – Around two-and-a-half hours
  • Didcot and Coventry – Just under two hours
  • Felixstowe and Ipswich – Around an hour
  • Haughley Junction and Peterborough – Around two hours
  • Southampton and Reading – Around one-and-a-half hours
  • Werrington Junction and Doncaster via Lincoln – Around two hours
  • Werrington Junction and Nuneaton – Just under two hours

How many of these gaps could be bridged by a Class 93 locomotive working in a diesel hybrid mode?

Stadler have not confirmed the size of the battery, but have said that it can provide 400 kW of power, which gives a maximum of 1.3 MW, when the batteries are working as afterburners for the diesel engine!

If the article in Rail Engineer is correct, I feel there is a high chance, that a Class 93 locomotive can bridge these gaps, with a load of 1500 tonnes in tow.

It is worth looking at current timings between Haughley Junction and Ely, when hauled by a Class 66 locomotive.

  • The distance is around 40 mph
  • The time taken is around an hour.
  • A Class 66 locomotive would put 2.2 MW at the rail.

This locomotive could need up to 2.2 MWh to bridge the gap.

But I don’t believe that a forty mile gap will be impossible for a Class 93 locomotive.

  • Stadler will have all the performance data of the bi-mode Class 88 locomotive to draw on.
  • The Class 93 locomotive has regenerative braking to help charge the batteries at any stops.
  • Several of the large electrification gaps on the UK rail network are in the flat lands of East Anglia and Lincolnshire.
  • Modern control systems would be able to eke out the power of the batteries.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Stadler have had an objective to design a locomotive that can perform like a Class 66 locomotive for two hours.

Conclusion

If Stadler get the specification, performance and reliability of this locomotive right, they will sell a lot of locomotives for operations like these! And not just in the UK!

 

 

January 16, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Beeching Reversal – Magor And Undy Walkway Station

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

I actually covered this proposal before in ‘Walkway’ Rail Station Plan For Magor As M4 Relief Road Scrapped,

I’ll repeat the start of that post.

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

These are the introductory paragraphs.

A village heavily affected by the decision to scrap the planned M4 relief road is bidding for help to build a £7m railway station there.

Residents of Magor in Monmouthshire have the mainline rail service to London running through the village, but no station.

They want to create a “walkway” station – one with no car parking that travellers will walk or cycle to.

The original Magor station was shut in the Beeching cuts in November 1964.

The Villages Of Magor And Undy

This Google Map shows the villages of Magor and Undy and their relationship to the roads and railway in the area.

Note.

  1. The Northern motorway is the M48, which leads to the original Severn Bridge.
  2. The Southern motorway is the M4, which leads to the newer Second Severn Crossing.
  3. Between the two lies the South Wales Main Line, with the two stations; Severn Tunnel Junction and Caldicot.
  4. At the Western end of the map, the railway runs between the two villages of Magor and Undy.

This second Google Map shows the villages.

Note.

  1. The M4 running East-West to the North of Magor.
  2. Magor services is in the North-West corner of the map.
  3. The South Wales Main Line running through the villages.

There certainly seems to be a lot of housing to provide passengers for the new station.

The Location Of Magor And Undy Station

On this web page on Rail Future, which is entitled Magor, this is said.

The station site is where the B4245 road passes closest to the railway line. The Monmouthshire County Council traffic survey shows that some 11 – 12,000 cars a day pass along this road through the middle of the villages. The shift from car to train use is primarily aimed at capturing those who at present are not prepared to drive the two and half miles to the east just to catch the train at Severn Tunnel Junction to travel the two and a half miles back passing their homes for the seven and a half mile journey into Newport, and hence at present use their car for the whole journey instead. The site also has the advantage of direct integration with the buses as the bus services pass the entrance to the site of the proposed Station and Community centre every half an hour.

This Google Map shows the B4245 road and the railway.

Note.

  1. The B4245 curving across the map.
  2. There are already two bus stops, which are marked by blue dots.
  3. There is a footbridge over the railway, which doesn’t appear to be step-free.

As Rail Future is probably correct, the position of the station is fairly obvious.

Various documents on the Internet talk about the station being built on the Three Field Site, which the local council bought for community purposes some years ago. Could the triangle of land between the B4245 and the railway, be this site?

Thoughts On The Station

Reading the web page on Rail Future, the following seems to be stated.

  • The platforms will be on the two outside tracks of the four through the station. These are the Relief Lines.
  • The two Fast Lines will be in the centre.
  • Existing crossovers will allow trains from the Fast Lines to call in the station.

Unlike at other proposed stations to the West of Newport, the tracks will not need major works to slew them to accommodate the new platforms.

I would also do the following.

Incorporate Wide Platforms

This picture was taken of the new platform at Stevenage station.

If the station gets busy, a wide platform will ease loading and unloading.

As Magor and Undy station, will be one that encourages passengers to cycle to the station, would a wide platform make it easier for passengers, who are travelling with bicycles?

Step-Free Between Train And Platform

Greater Anglia are using similar trains to South Wales and the Stadler Flirts in East Anglia offer step-free access between train and platform, as this picture shows.

South Wales should offer a similar standard of step-free access. as it eases access and cuts train delays.

A Step-Free Footbridge

In Winner Announced In The Network Rail Footbridge Design Ideas Competition, I wrote how the competition was won by this bridge.

So could a factory-built bridge like this be installed at Magor and Undy station?

  • The bridge can be sized to fit any gap.
  • If the platforms were wide enough, I think it would be possible.
  • It can have lifts that can take bicycles.
  • A bridge like this would also reduce the cost.

So the station can have a stylish, affordable, fully step-free footbridge.

A Walkway Along The Railway

It strikes me that a walkway on the Southern side of the railway to connect the communities South of the railway to the station could be very useful.

Electrification

The South Wales Main Line is electrified between London and Cardiff and Great Western Railway’s Class 802 trains between London and Swansea, change between electricity and diesel at Cardiff Central station.

All four lines at Severn Tunnel Junction appear to be electrified, so will all four lines at Magor and Undy station be electrified?

They certainly should be, to improve the reliability of electric services between London and South Wales.

Train Services

I suspect that the calling pattern of train will be similar to that at Severn Tunnel Junction, which is the next station to the East. The Wikipedia entry for Severn Tunnel Junction says this about services at that station.

The station is served by two main routes – Transport for Wales’ Cheltenham Spa to Cardiff Central and Maesteg via Chepstow local service and Great Western Railway’s Cardiff to Taunton via Bristol line. Both run hourly on weekdays & Saturdays, albeit with some two-hour gaps on the Chepstow line. In the weekday peaks, certain Cardiff to Portsmouth Harbour also stop here, whilst there is a daily train to Fishguard Harbour. CrossCountry also provides very limited services to/from Manchester Piccadilly via Bristol and to Nottingham via Gloucester and Birmingham New Street.

On Sundays, the Bristol to Cardiff service is once again hourly (and runs to/from Portsmouth) whist the Cheltenham service is two-hourly.

I think that this could result in these train frequencies in trains per hour (tph), from Magor station.

  • Caldicot – 2 tph
  • Cardiff Central – 4 tph
  • Cjeltenham – 1 tph
  • Chepstow – 2 tph
  • Gloucester – 1 tph
  • Newport – 4 tph
  • Severn Tunnel Junction – 4 tph

Note.

  1. I have assumed that the CrossCountry services don’t stop.
  2. As there seem to be proposals to add extra stations between Newport and Cardiff Central, these new stations could also get a service with a frequency of between two and four tph.

Working on rules that apply in Liverpool and London, and may apply to the South Wales Metro, I think that a Turn-Up-And-Go service of a train every fifteen minutes is needed between Magor and Undy station and the important Newport and Cardiff stations.

Battery Electric Trains Along The South Wales Main Line

The railways are being decarbonised and plans will have to be made to run all secondary services on the South Wales Main Line without diesel.

Hitachi have already played their cards, with the announcement of a Regional Battery Train, which will be created by replacing some of the numerous diesel engines on a Class 802 train with battery packs.

This is Hitachi’s infographic for the train.

The range of ninety kilometres or fifty-six miles is interesting.

  • Cardiff Central and Swansea are 46 miles apart, so with a charging facility at Swansea, Great Western Railway could run diesel-free between London Paddington and Swansea.
  • I suspect too, that destinations to the West of Swansea could also be served with intelligent placing of a second charging facility at perhaps Carmarthen.

But it’s not just Hitachi, who have made plans for battery electric trains.

  • Transport for Wales have ordered twenty-four Stadler Class 756 trains, which are tri-mode and can run on electrification, diesel or battery power.
  • Transport for Wales have also ordered eleven Stadler Class 231 trains, which are only bi-mode.
  • Both these fleets seem very similar to Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains, which Stadler have said can be converted to 100 mph tri-mode operation, with perhaps a forty mile range on battery power.
  • I have ridden several times in Class 755 trains and without doubt, they are one of the best diesel-powered trains, I have used in the UK.

So I don’t think it is unreasonable to believe that Transport for Wales have the capability to run battery electric services with the fleet they have ordered given a few simple upgrades, that may already be planned for Greater Anglia.

But will the Welsh train builder; CAF, be happy with Hitachi and Stadler running their battery electric trains at high speed past their factory and onward to England and West Wales?

I doubt it and CAF have already made a response.

In Northern’s Battery Plans, I said this about CAF’s plans to create a battery electric Class 331 train for Northern.

It appears that CAF will convert some three-car Class 331 trains into four-car battery-electric trains.

  • A three-car Class 331 train has a formation of DMSOL+PTS+DMSO.
  • A fourth car with batteries will be inserted into the train.
  • Batteries will also be added to the PTS car.

I suspect that CAF  would be happy to convert some of Transport for Wales order for diesel Class 197 trains into one for suitable battery electric trains.

I believe some of the services that are planned to be run by these diesel trains into Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, appear to be ideal routes for battery electric trains.

These diesel trains will still be serviceable in 2060, which will be long past the cut-off date for diesel trains in the UK.

So why not replace them before they are built?

  • The CAF Civity train is modular, so I doubt it would make much difference to CAF’s manufacturing process.
  • The diesel version of the Civity has a noisy transmission compared to the electric version.

It would surely, be better for CAF’s marketing.

Could the various routes through Magor be operated by battery electric trains?

These are my thoughts on the various routes.

Maesteg And Cheltenham Spa

This service is hourly and run by Transport for Wales.

  • Currently, the service seems to be running to Gloucester.
  • Maesteg and Cardiff Central is not electrified and 28.5 miles long.
  • Trains seem to take over 8-9 minutes to turn back at Maesteg.
  • Cardiff Central and Severn Tunnel Junction is electrified.
  • Severn Tunnel Junction and Gloucester is not electrified and is 35 miles long.
  • Trains seem to take over 25 minutes to turn back at Gloucester.

It certainly looks that with charging facilities at Maesteg and Gloucester, this service could be run by a battery electric train with a range of forty miles on battery power.

Fishguard And Gloucester

This service is occasional and run by Transport for Wales.

The problem with this service will be to the West of Swansea.

But if Great Western Railway and Transport for Wales put their heads and services together, I feel there is a cunning plan to run battery electric trains to Fishguard, with perhaps charging facilities at Fishguard, Carmarthen and Swansea.

Cardiff And Bristol Temple Meads

This service is two tph and run by Great Western Railway.

On the Welsh side of the Severn Tunnel, this could be an electric service.

On the English side, there is only ten miles of line without electrification between the South Wales Main Line and Bristol Temple Meads station.

This service in wales can be considered an electric service, as it is only onwards from Bristol Temple Meads to Taunton and Portsmouth Harbour, that charging facilities will be needed.

Conclusion

I like this scheme and as it looks like the trains will be running on electric power, through Magor and Undy station, it could be a very good one.

 

 

August 26, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Trains Are The New Age Planes

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

It is an article well worth a read about the future development of railways in the United States.

August 19, 2020 Posted by | Business, Finance, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Sustainability Journey

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release on the Rolls-Royce web site.

It is sub-titled.

Paul Stein’s Thoughts On Sustainability And Electrification

Paul Stein is Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer, so what he says is important.

This press release was the source of the information behind Distributed Propulsion ‘Maybe The Only Means’ For Small Electric Flight Progress, which I wrote about Rolls-Royce’s beer keg-sized 2.5 MW generator.

This is the third paragraph.

We’ve taken great steps at Rolls-Royce with our three-pillar sustainability approach of developing the gas turbine to even greater efficiency, supporting the introduction of Sustainable Aviation Fuel and creating new, disruptive technologies such as electrification.

These are definitely, the three pillars of wisdom, when it comes to sustainable aviation.

E-Fan X

This paragraph is Paul Stein’s view of the E-Fan X.

One of the great endeavours in the latter category has been our E-Fan X programme in partnership with Airbus. From our side, this has involved creating a hybrid-electric power generation system at a scale never previously seen in our industry, comprised of an embedded AE2100 gas turbine driving a 2.5MW generator and 3000V power electronics and an electric propulsion unit. What has been particularly encouraging has been the amount of industry interest and support for this programme, and I know everyone at Rolls-Royce and Airbus has been truly grateful for that.

He states that the E-Fan  has now concluded, but a several valuable lessons have been learned.

2.5 MW Generator

He describes the generator like this.

Amongst the many great achievements from E-Fan X has been the generator – about the same size as a beer keg – but producing a staggering 2.5 MW. That’s enough power to supply 2,500 homes and fully represents the pioneering spirit on this project.

The press release discloses that the heart of this staggering generator is a Rolls-Royce AE2100 gas turbine, which powers the latest version of the legendary Lockheed Hercules; the C-130J Super Hercules.

Wikipedia gives this data for the AE2100D2 version of the engine.

  • Length – three metres
  • Diameter – 0.73 metres
  • Weight – 783 kilograms
  • Maximum Power Output – 3458 kW
  • Fuel Consumption – 0.25/kW/h

It looks like in the E-Fan X application, the engine is not at full power.

Use With Aviation Biofuel

Aviation Biofuel is described like this in the first sentences of its Wikipedia entry.

Aviation biofuel is a biofuel used for aircraft. It is considered by some to be the primary means by which the aviation industry can reduce its carbon footprint. After a multi-year technical review from aircraft makers, engine manufacturers and oil companies, biofuels were approved for commercial use in July 2011.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean growing large amounts of crops and converting it to the fuel. Altalto, who are backed by British Airways, Shell, Oxford University and the British Government are building a plant at Immingham to convert household and industrial waste into aviation biofuel.

I would expect that Rolls-Royce have made sure that the generator will work with aviation biofuel.

A Memory Of Emergency Power Generation

About twenty-five years, there was a major power failure after a thunder storm, where I lived in Suffolk and C and myself went to bed in the dark. We awoke to full power in the morning, after a good night’s sleep with no disturbance.

Imagine my surprise, when I let the dogs out to find parked in the field in front of the house, a very large articulated truck.

I was greeted by an engineer, who asked if I minded, his generator in my field. I seem to remember my response was to offer him a cup of tea, which he refused, as he said he had everything he needed in the truck.

It turned out that the main sub-station for the area had received a direct lightning strike and had been destroyed. So to supply power to all the nearby villages, as my farm was at the end of the supply, it was the most convenient place to plug in a transportable gas-turbine generator. The generator was in the field for about ten days and the whole operation impressed me with its professionalism.

But with this new 2.5 MW generator from Rolls-Royce, there would only need to be a small 3.5 tonne four-wheeled truck, to include the generator, fuel and living quarters for the engineer

We have made a lot of progress in twenty-five years.

A Modern Railway Locomotive

The power of this new Class 68 diesel locomotive, that was built in Spain, by Swiss company Stadler is a very healthy 2,800 kW.

Consider these facts about a Class 68 locomotive.

  • Thirty-four of these locomotives have been produced for the UK.
  • They are powered by a Caterpillar C175-16 engine, which weighs thirteen tonnes.
  • The transmission of these locomotives is electric, which means that the diesel engine drives a generator and the train is driven by electric traction motors.
  • The locomotive is equally at home hauling intermodal freight trains and passenger trains for Chiltern Railways or TransPennine Express.
  • According to Wikipedia, Class 68 locomotives comply with Stage III A of the European emission standards but not Stage III B. But that is much better than most of our noisy, smelly and polluting diesel locomotives.

Class 68 locomotives are members of the UKLight family of locomotives, which contains, these two other locomotives.

  • Already in service is the Class 88 locomotive, which is a bi-mode locomotive, which is capable of running on electrification or the on-board 0.7 MW diesel engine.
  • Under development is the Class 93 locomotive, which is a tri-mode 110 mph locomotive, which is capable of running on electrification, the on-board 0.7 MW diesel engine or battery power.

Stadler seem to be able to mix-and-match various power sources to provide versatile and highly-desirable locomotives.

I feel it would be feasible to design a railway locomotive with the following power sources.

  • 25 KVAC  overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification, providing up to perhaps the four MW of a Class 88 locomotive.
  • A Rolls-Royce gas-turbine generator running on aviation biofuel, providing up to perhaps three MW.
  • Batteries up to a weight of perhaps ten tonnes.

I am sure that it could handle many of the routes still run with diesel locomotives in the UK.

  • It would handle all locomotive-hauled passenger services and would be electric-only in stations.
  • It certainly solves the problem of hauling long intermodal freight trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands and the North.
  • To handle the heaviest stone and aggregate trains, it might need a more powerful generator, but I’m sure Rolls-Royce would oblige.

In Thoughts On A Battery/Electric Replacement For A Class 66 Locomotive, I gave a list of routes, that would need to be handled by a battery electric locomotive.

  • Didcot and Birmingham – Around two-and-a-half hours
  • Didcot and Coventry – Just under two hours
  • Felixstowe and Ipswich – Around an hour
  • Haughley Junction and Peterborough – Around two hours
  • Southampton and Reading – Around one-and-a-half hours
  • Werrington Junction and Doncaster via Lincoln – Around two hours
  • Werrington Junction and Nuneaton – Just under two hours

Will Rolls-Royce’s generator be able to supply 2.5 MW for up to four hours?

This would need two-and-a-half tonnes of aviation biofuel, which would be around 3,200 litres, which could be carried in the 5,000 litre tank of a Class 68 locomotive.

It certainly seems feasible to replace diesel locomotives with gas-turbine locomotives running on aviation biofuel, to reduce net carbon emissions and reduce noise and pollution.

But this is not just a UK problem and many countries, who rely on diesel-hauled rail freight, would look seriously at such a locomotive.

Underfloor Mounting In Passenger Trains

These pictures show the space underneath a Hitachi Class 800 train.

The red cap visible in some pictures is the filler for the oil or diesel for the MTU 12V 1600 R 80L diesel engine used to power the trains away from electrification.

This diesel engine has this specification.

  • It produces 560 kW of power.
  • It weighs around six tonnes.
  • Its is about 4 x 2.5 x 1 metres in size.

The diesel engine produces about a fifth of the power as the gas-turbine generator, which is also smaller and very much lighter in weight.

It should also be noted, that a nine-car Class 800 train has five of these MTU diesel engines.

At a first glance, it would appear Hitachi could find one of Rolls-Royce’s gas-turbine generators very useful.

  • It might even enable self-powered high speed trains to run on lines without electrification at speeds well in excess of 140 mph.
  • I can certainly see, High Speed Two’s classic-compatible trains having one or possibly two of these generators, so they can extend services on lines without electrification.

We shouldn’t forget that one version of British Rail’s Advanced Passenger Train was to be gas-turbine powered.

A Class 43 Diesel Power-Car

Rolls-Royce would need a test-bed for a trial rail application of their 2.5 MW generator and there is probably no better trial vehicle, than one of the numerous Class 43 power-cars waiting to be scrapped. They could probably obtain a complete InterCity 125, if they wanted one for a realistic weight, test equipment and a second power-car for comparison and rescue.

But seriously, if we are going to remove diesel from UK railways by 2040, a solution needs to be found for the GWR Castles, ScotRail’s Inter7Citys and NetworkRail’s New Measurement Train.

One of the great advantages of these staggering (Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer’s word, not mine!) generators is that they are controlled by Full Authority Digital Engine Control or FADEC.

FADEC will give the pilots in a Hercules or other aircraft, all the precise control they need and I doubt Rolls-Royce will leave FADEC out of their gas turbine generator, as it would give the operator or driver extremely precise control.

A driver of a GWR Castle equipped with two gas-turbine power-cars, would be able to do the following.

  • Adjust the power to the load and terrain, with much more accuracy, than at present.
  • Shut the engines down and start them quickly, when passing through sensitive areas.
  • Cut carbon-dioxide emissions, by simply using a minimum amount of fuel.

I would put a battery in the back of the Class 43, to provide hotel power for the passenger coaches.

Running current MTU engines in the Class 43s, on biodiesel is surely a possibility, but that not an elegant engineering solution. It also doesn’t cut carbon emissions.

As there are still over a hundred Class 43s in service, it could even be a substantial order.

It should also be noted, that more-efficient and less-polluting MTU engines were fitted in Class 43s from 2005, so as MTU is now part of Rolls-Royce, I suspect that Rolls-Royce have access to all the drawings and engineers notes, if not the engineers themselves

But it would be more about publicity for future sales around the world, with headlines like.

Iconic UK Diesel Passenger Trains To Receive Green Roll-Royce Jet Power!

COVID-19 has given Rolls-Royce’s aviation business a real hammering, so perhaps they can open up a new revenue stream by replacing the engines of diesel locomotives,

A Class 55 Locomotive

Why Not?

A Class 55 locomotive is diesel electric and there are thousands of diesel locomotives in the world, built to similar basic designs, that need a more-efficient and more environmentally-friendly replacement for a dirty, smelly, noisy and polluting diesel power-plant.

Marine Applications

The Wikipedia entry for the Cat C175, says this.

The Cat C175 is often used in locomotives and passenger-class ships.

I suspect there will be marine applications for the gas-turbine generator.

Conclusion

I’m very certain that Rolls-Royce’s pocket power station has a big future.

Who said that dynamite comes in small parcels?

 

 

July 19, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Electro-Diesel Tram-Train Order Expanded To Support Service Increase

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

National passenger operator MÁV-Start has exercised an option for Stadler’s Valencia plant to supply a further four Citylink electro-diesel tram-trains for the route being developed to link Hódmezővásárhely with Szeged.

The reason, I am posting this, is that I feel the use of diesel tram-trains may have applications in this country.

  • The Class 399 tram-trains in Sheffield and the Class 398 tram-trains ordered for the South Wales Metro are both members of the Citylink family, that were built or will be built in Stadler’s Valencia plant.
  • The Class 398 tram-trains will have batteries to extend the route on routes without electrification.

Perhaps, if they ran on bio-diesel, they may have applications, where electrification would be difficult or inappropriate and the distance is too long for a Citylink with batteries.

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

The Big Metro Fleet Upgrade That Could Make It ‘Easy’ To Finally Extend Train Services To New Areas

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

This is the first paragraph.

Every train in Metro’s new fleet will be capable of running via an on-board battery, reducing the chance of major shutdowns and making it much cheaper to extend the network.

The fact that it is technically possible, is not a surprise as Stadler’s Class 777 trains for Merseyrail will be using battery power to extend routes. I would be very surprised if the new Tyne and Wear Metro trains and those for Merseyrail, didn’t have a lot of design in common.

But what is surprising, is that the Tyne and Wear Metro’s whole fleet will be fitted with batteries. This must be the first time in the UK, that a whole fleet of trains has been said to have batteries.

The Merseyrail trains will also have a dual voltage capability and will be able to be modified for running on 25 KVAC overhead electrification, as well as 750 VDC third-rail electrification.

Will the Tyne and Wear trains be able to use 25 KVAC electrification? It could be useful in some places on the network and I’m sure, if there was a financial case for a service using existing 25 KVAC electrification, then some trains would be modified accordingly.

A Quick Comparison

This is a quick comparison between Merseyrail’s Class 777 trains and the Tyne and Wear Metro’s new trains.

  • Cars – 777 – 4 – T&W – 5
  • Operating Speed – 777 – 75 mph – T&W – 50 mph
  • Capacity – 484 – T&W – 600
  • Capacity Per Car – 121 – T&W – 125
  • In Service – 2022 (?) – T&W – 2024

They are not that different and it looks like the Tyne and Wear trains will be built after the Merseyrail trains.

Battery Running

The article says this about running on battery power.

He said the 16km off-wire running would allow for a new loop extending out from South Hylton, through Washington, connecting back to Pelaw.

He added that it would be “easy” to create new connections between existing Metro lines – potentially allowing for a new route through Silverlink and the Cobalt business park in North Tyneside, or a link-up from South Shields towards Sunderland.

Battery power would also solve the problem of running Metro trains on Network Rail lines, which is currently impossible because they operate at different voltages.

Mr Blagburn said: “You could remove the electrification from the complex parts of the route, say over historic structures or through tunnels.

Note.

  1. The range of sixteen kilometres or ten miles could be very useful.
  2. The trains appear to be designed to run on Network Rail tracks, as the current trains already do.
  3. The current trains use the Karlsruhe model to effectively work as tram-trains on shared tracks.

I actually believe that the new Tyne and Wear trains could be modified to run on both 25 KVAC and 750 VDC overhead electrification, as Stadler’s Class 399 tram-trains do in Sheffield.

Conclusion

These trains are using all Stadler’s experience of trains and tram-trains from all over the world.

  • They will normally operate using 750 VDC overhead electrification.
  • But Stadler have the technology to enable the trains for 25 KVAC overhead electrification, if required.
  • They have a range of ten miles on batteries.
  • Are the batteries charged by using the energy created by the regenerative braking?

These are not bog-standard trains!

But then neither are the trains built for Greater Anglia by Stadler!

 

 

June 25, 2020 Posted by | Design, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

GWR and DfT’s Commitment To The Night Riviera

The May 2020 Edition of Modern Railways has an article, which is entitled West Of England Improvements In GWR Deal.

Under a heading of Sleeper Planning, this is said about plans for the Night Riviera.

Whilst GWR is already developing plans for the short term future of the ‘Night Riviera’ sleeper service, including the provision of additional capacity at times of high demand using Mk. 3 vehicles withdrawn from the Caledonian Sleeper fleet, it is understood the company has been asked to develop a long-term plan for the replacement of the current Mk. 3 fleet of coaches, constructed between 1981 and 1984, as well as the Class 57/6 locomotives, which were rebuilt in 2002-03 from Class 47 locomotives constructed in the early 1960s.

This must show commitment from both GWR and the Department for Transport, that the Night Riviera has a future.

These are a few of my thoughts on the future of the service.

The Coaches

I would suspect that GWR will opt for the same Mark 5 coaches, built by CAF, as are used on the Caledonian Sleeper.

I took these pictures on a trip from Euston to Glasgow.

The coaches don’t seem to have any problems and appear to be performing well.

The facilities are comprehensive and include full en-suite plumbing, a selection of beds including doubles and a lounge car. There are also berths for disabled passengers.

The Locomotives

The Class 57 locomotives have a power output around 2 MW and I would suspect a similar-sized locomotive would be used.

Possible locomotives could include.

  • Class 67 – Used by Chiltern on passenger services – 2.4 kW
  • Class 68 – Used by Chiltern, TransPennine Express and others on passenger services – 2.8 MW
  • Class 88 – A dual-mode locomotive might be powerful enough on diesel – 700 kW

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stadler come up with a customised version of their Euro Dual dual-mode locomotives.

 

April 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On The Actual Battery Size In Class 756 Trains And Class 398 Tram-Trains

A Freedom of Information Request was sent to Transport for Wales, which said.

Please confirm the battery capacity and maximum distance possible under battery power for the Tram/Train, 3 & 4 Car Flirts.

The reply was as follows.

The batteries on the new fleets will have the following capacities: –

  • Class 756 (3-car) Flirt – 480 kWh
  • Class 756 (4-car) Flirt – 600 kWh
  • Class 398 tram-trains – 128 kWh

I will now have thoughts on both vehicles separately.

Class 756 Trains

In More On Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts, I speculated about the capacity of the batteries in the tri-mode Stadler Flirts, which are now called Class 756 trains, I said this.

I wonder how much energy storage you get for the weight of a V8 diesel, as used on a bi-mode Flirt?

The V8 16 litre diesel engines are made by Deutz and from their web site, it looks like they weigh about 1.3 tonnes.

How much energy could a 1.3 tonne battery store?

The best traction batteries can probably store 0.1 kWh per kilogram. Assuming that the usable battery weight is 1.2 tonnes, then each battery module could store 120 kWh or 360 kWh if there are three of them.

I also quoted this from the July 2018 Edition of Modern Railways.

The units will be able to run for 40 miles between charging, thanks to their three large batteries.

Since I wrote More On Tri-Mode Stadler Flirts in June 2018, a lot more information on the bi-mode Stadler Class 755 Flirt has become available and they have entered service with Greater Anglia.

Four-car trains weigh around 114 tonnes, with three-car trains around a hundred. I can also calculate kinetic energies.

How Good Was My Battery Size Estimate?

These are my estimate and the actual values for the three batteries in Class 756 trains

  • My estimate for Class 756 (3- & 4-car) – 120 kWh
  • Class 756 (3-car) Flirt – 160 kWh
  • Class 756 (4-car) Flirt – 200 kWh

So have Stadler’s battery manufacturer learned how to squeeze more kWh into the same weight of battery?

In Sparking A Revolution, I talked about Hitachi’s bullish plans for battery-powered trains, in a section called Costs and Power.

In that section, I used Hitachi’s quoted figures, that predicted a five tonne battery could hold a massive 15 MWh in fifteen years time.

If Stadler can get the same energy density in a battery as Hitachi, then their battery trains will have long enough ranges for many applications.

Class 398 Tram-Trains

In Sheffield Region Transport Plan 2019 – Tram-Trains Between Sheffield And Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, I showed this map of the route the trams would take.

I also said this about the tram-trains.

The distance between Rotherham Parkgate and Doncaster is under twelve miles and has full electrification at both ends.

The Class 399 tram-trains being built with a battery capability for the South Wales Metro to be delivered in 2023, should be able to reach Doncaster.

But there are probably other good reasons to fully electrify between Doncaster and Sheffield, via Meadowhall, Rotherham Central and Rotherham Parkgate.

The major work would probably be to update Rotherham Parkgate to a through station with two platforms and a step-free footbridge.

Currently, trains take twenty-three minutes between Rotherham Central and Doncaster. This is a time, that the tram-trains would probably match.

If you adopt the normal energy consumption of between three and five kWh per vehicle mile on the section without electrification between Rotherham Parkgate and Doncaster, you get a battery size of between 108 and 180 kWh.

It looks to me, that on a quick look, a 128 kWh battery could provide a useful range for one of Stadler’s Class 398/399 tram-trains.

Class 398 Tram-Trains Between Cardiff Bay and Cardiff Queen Street Stations

The distance between these two stations is six chains over a mile,

Adding the extra bit to the flourish might make a round trip between Cardiff Queen Street and The Flourish stations perhaps four miles.

Applying the normal energy consumption of between three and five kWh per vehicle mile on the section without electrification between Cardiff Queen Street and The Flourish, would need a battery size of between 36 and 60 kWh.

Conclusion

The battery sizes seem to fit the routes well.

 

 

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Energy Storage, Transport | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Batteries On Class 777 Trains

In this article on Railway Gazette, which is entitled Merseyrail Class 777 arrives in Liverpool, there is this sentence.

There is space under one vehicle to house a battery weighing up to 5 tonnes within the axleload limit.

This matter-of-fact sentence, draws me to the conclusion, that these trains have been designed from the start to allow future battery operation.

Batteries are not an add-on squeezed into a design with great difficulty.

Battery Capacity

Energy densities of 60 Wh/Kg or 135 Wh/litre are claimed by Swiss battery manufacturer; Leclanche.

This means that a five tonne battery would hold 300 kWh.

Note that Vivarail find space for 424 kWh in the two-car Class 230 train, I wrote about in Battery Class 230 Train Demonstration At Bo’ness And Kinneil Railway, so it would appear that Stadler aren’t being over ambitious.

Kinetic Energy Of A Full Class 777 Train

The weight of a full Class 777 train is calculated as follows.

  • Basic empty weight – 99 tonnes
  • Battery weight – 5 tonnes
  • 484 passengers at 80 Kg – 38.72 tonnes

Which gives a total weight of 143.72 tonnes.

Intriguingly, the weight of a current Class 507 train is 104.5 tonnes, which is 500 Kg more than an empty Class 777 train with a battery!

If these weights are correct, I suspect Stadler have used some very clever lightweight design techniques.

For various speeds, using Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator, this weight gives.

  • 30 mph – 3.6 kWh
  • 40 mph – 6.4 kWh
  • 50 mph – 10.0 kWh
  • 60 mph – 14.4 kWh
  • 70 mph – 19.5 kWh
  • 75 mph – 22.4 kWh

Note.

  1. The average speed between Bidston and Wrexham General stations on the Borderlands Line is under 30 mph
  2. The operating speed on the Wirral Line is 70 mph
  3. The operating speed on the Northern Line is 60 mph
  4. The maximum speed of the trains is 75 mph.

Every time I do these calculations, I’m surprised at how low the kinetic energy of a train seems to be.

How Small Is A Small Battery?

One battery doesn’t seem enough, for a train designed with all the ingenuity of a product with quality and precision, that is designed to out-perform all other trains.

This is another paragraph from the Railway Gazette article.

According to Merseytravel, ‘we want to be able to prove the concept that we could run beyond the third rail’. By storing recovered braking energy, the batteries would help to reduce power demand and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. All of the Class 777s will be fitted with small batteries to allow independent movement around workshop and maintenance facilities.

I am not quite sure what this means.

It would seem strange to have two independent battery systems in one train.

I think it is more likely, that the smaller battery can be considered the primary battery of the train.

  • After all in the depot, it looks after the train’s power requirement.
  • Does it also handle all the regenerative braking energy?
  • Is it used as a secondary power supply, if say the power is low from the electrification?
  • Could it be used to move the train to the next station for passenger evacuation in the event of a power failure?

I wonder if the power system is a bit like the average battery-powered device like a lap-top computer, smart phone or hybrid car.

  • The electrification and the regenerative braking charges the battery.
  • The battery provides the traction and hotel power for the train.

When the five tonne battery is fitted, does the train’s control system move power between the two batteries to drive the train in the most efficient manner?

I’ll return to factors that define the size of the small battery.

The small battery must be big enough for these purposes.

  • Handling regenerative braking at the operating speed.
  • Recovering a full train to the next station.
  • Keeping a train’s systems running, during power supply problems.
  • Moving a train around a depot

As the lines leading to depots are electrified, the train can probably enter a depot with a battery fairly well-charged.

As the new Class 777 trains have a maximum operating speed of 75 mph, I would suspect that the small battery must be able to handle the regenerative braking from 75 mph, which my calculations show is 22.4 kWh with a full train. Let’s call it 30 kWh to have a reserve.

Using Leclanche’s figures, a 30 kWh battery would weigh 500 Kg and have a volume of just under a quarter of a cubic metre (0.222 cubic metre to be exact!)

I suspect the operation of the small battery through a station would be something like this.

  • As the train runs from the previous station, the power from the battery will be used by the train, to make sure that there is enough spare capacity in the battery to accommodate the predicted amount of energy generated by regenerative braking.
  • Under braking, the regenerative braking energy will be stored in the battery.
  • Not all of the kinetic energy of the train will be regenerated, as the process is typically around eighty percent efficient.
  • Whilst in the station, the train’s hotel services like air-conditioning, lights and doors, will be run by either the electrification if available or the battery.
  • When the train accelerates away, the train’s computer will use the optimal energy source.

The process will repeat, with the battery constantly being charged under braking and discharged under acceleration.

Lithium-ion batteries don’t like this cycling, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see dome other battery or even supercapacitors.

A Trip Between Liverpool and Wrexham Central in A Class 777 Train With A Battery

The train will arrive at Bidston station with 300 kWh in the battery, that has been charged on the loop line under the city.

I will assume that the train is cruising at 50 mph between the twelve stops along the twenty-seven and a half miles to Wrexham Central station.

At each of the twelve stops, the train will use regenerative braking, but it will lose perhaps twenty percent of the kinetic energy. This will be two kWh per stop or 24 kWh in total.

I usually assume that energy usage for hotel functions on the train are calculated using a figure of around three kWh per vehicle mile.

This gives an energy usage of 330 kWh.

But the Class 777 trains have been designed to be very electrically efficient and the train is equivalent in length to a three-car Class 507 train.

So perhaps a the calculation should assume three vehicles not four.

Various usage figures give.

  • 3 kWh per vehicle-mile – 247.5 kWh
  • 2.5 kWh per vehicle-mile – 206 kWh
  • 2 kWh per vehicle-mile – 165 kWh
  • 1.5 kWh per vehicle-mile – 123.8 kWh
  • 1 kWh per vehicle-mile – 82.5 kWh

Given that station losses between Bidston and Wrexham Central could be around 24 kWh, it looks like the following could be possible.

  1. With a consumption of 3 kWh per vehicle-mile, a Class 777 train could handle the route, but would need a charging station at Wrexham Central.
  2. If energy consumption on the train could be cut to 1.5 kWh per vehicle-mile, then a round trip would be possible.

It should also be noted that trains seem to do a very quick stop at Wrexham Central station of just a couple of minutes.

So if charging were to be introduced, there would need to be a longer stop of perhaps eight to ten minutes.

But the mathematics are telling me the following.

  • The Class 777 train has been designed to weigh the same empty as a current Class 507 train, despite carrying a five tonne battery.
  • If power consumption can be kept low, a Class 777 train with a battery can perform a round trip from Liverpool to Wrexham Central, without charging except on the electrified section of line between Liverpool and Bidston.
  • Extra stops would probably be possible, as each would consume about 2 kWh

I feel that these trains have been designed around Liverpool to Wrexham Central.

Conclusion

Wrexham Central here we come!

Other routes are possible.

  • Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road – 27 miles
  • Ormskirk and Preston – 15 miles
  • Headbolt Lane and Skelmersdale – 6 miles
  • Ellesmere Port and Helsby – 5 miles
  • Kirkby and Wigan Wallgate – 12 miles

Chargers will not be needed at the far terminals.

February 4, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments