The Anonymous Widower

Three Hydrogen Double Decker Buses Set For Dublin

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on H2 View.

This article is different to other hydrogen bus stories.

These buses are being used on a Dublin commuter service; 105X between Dublin and Ratoath.

  • The shortest distance is 16 miles by the M2 Motorway.
  • The current service between Ratoath and O’Connell Street takes around an hour, but doesn’t appear to use the Motorway.
  • There seem to be three services into Dublin in the morning and three services out in the evening.

Could it be, that if this service is run on the Motorway with a faster hydrogen bus, allowed to go faster than the 65 kph limit for buses in Ireland, that would knock significant time from the journey?

My rough estimate says that times of the order of under forty minutes are possible.

Conclusion

Hydrogen buses have been chosen for this route for various reasons.

  • One overnight refuelling will last all day.
  • No time will be wasted during the day in charging batteries.
  • The bus probably carries a large fuel reserve to cope with traffic delays.
  • As the buses are the latest design with lots of modern features, they could attract passengers.
  • The buses are probably certified for higher speeds than older buses.
  • The three commuter services will each be hydrogen buses, but if there is a minor failure, I suspect a diesel bus can substitute.
  • Surely, if the buses did the journey faster, extra services could be phased in throughout the day.

I think we could be seeing hydrogen buses on commuter routes into our major towns and cities.

The Dublin purchase of hydrogen buses for one specific route could be significant.

I shall be watching it with interest.

 

July 15, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

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 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wrightbus Presents Their First Battery-Electric Bus

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

This is the first paragraph.

The Northern Irish bus manufacturer Wrightbus presents its first battery-electric vehicle in its portfolio: a double-decker bus called StreetDeck Electroliner. Until now, the Northern Irish manufacturer has been known primarily for its hydrogen-powered buses.

In My First Ride In A Hydrogen-Powered Double-Deck Bus, I rode in a Wrightbus StreetDeck Hydroliner FCEV, so these pictures of that bus, will at least show the external style of the StreetDeck Electroliner BEV.

These two links show the web page for each product on the Wrightbus web site.

Wrightbus StreetDeck Electroliner BEV

Wrightbus StreetDeck Hydroliner FCEV

Wrightbus on their web page announce the Electroliner with a headline of The Electric Bus Perfected.

This is the first paragraph of the web page.

Meet the electric bus from the future of environmentally friendly transport. Our StreetDeck Electroliner is built with features to inspire the next wave of electric transport including best in class range to cover most duty cycles, modern passenger-focused amenities, best in class charge time, and many more. Making every kilometer a new sustainability milestone.

These are some features of the bus, gleaned from Wrightbus web page and the electrive article.

Battery Power

The Wrightbus web page says this about the batteries.

StreetDeck Electroliner’s maximum power from a 454kW zero-emission battery electric powertrain is the highest battery capacity for a UK Double Deck bus. It powers it to a leading range of up to 200 miles and a fast charge time of just 2.5 hours ensures longer journeys with fewer refueling breaks. Our commitment to greener transport is also strengthened with an optional 8-year battery warranty.

Note.

  1. On the Wrightbus web page, a cutaway drawing appears to show batteries everywhere.
  2. Reading the Wrightbus web page, the specification says that there are two battery sizes available; 340 kWh and 454 kWh.

They certainly seem to have all angles covered with batteries.

According to the electrive article, the StreetDeck Electroliner uses slim batteries from French company; Forsee Power.

On their web site, there is a paragraph, which is entitled Wrightbus Will Integrate ZEN SLIM Batteries, where this is said.

As part of its exclusive supplier partnership with Wrightbus, Forsee Power will supply Wrightbus with the new ZEN SLIM batteries, whose extra flat format allows easy integration into the chassis of vehicles (standard or double-decker buses).

Each bus will be equipped with three battery systems up to 340 kWh and an extension including a fourth system will also be possible, providing exceptional capacity of 432 kWh and a battery range of more than 350 kilometers.

The figure of 432 kWh does not fit with the Wrightbus specification and is not 340*4/3, so I suspect the Forsee web site is a couple of figures out of date.

The Forsee brochure for the ZEN SLIM batteries gives an energy density of 166 Wh per Kg. This means that the weight of the 454 kWh battery is around 3.7 tonnes.

I do like the modularity of the batteries, as it means must mean greater flexibility for bus operators, especially in a large city, where there is a varied mix of routes.

Intriguingly the batteries appear to be water cooled. Is the heat generated by the batteries, used to warm the bus in winter? Now that would be kool!

Battery Charging

In the specification on the Wrightbus web site, under a heading of EV Charging, this is said.

CCS2.0 Compliant Combo2 Socket
150kW or 300kW fast charge

And under a heading of EV Charge Time, this is said.

340kWh – 2 ½ hours @ 150kW
454kWh – 3 hours @ 150Kw
Up to 420kW Opportunity Charging / Pantograph Charging

I find the pantograph charging interesting.

I have been following a battery train charging device called a Railbaar since 2016, when I wrote How To Charge A Battery Train.

The device is now available for buses as a Busbaar and this page on the opbrid web site talks about opportunity charging for buses.

Opportunity Charging would entail charging the buses at suitable points along the route, using an overhead charging point and a speciality designed pantograph on the roof of the bus.

Wrightbus claims a charging rate of 420 kW for their system. With a claimed range of 200 miles, these buses should be able to handle at least 90 % of the bus routes in the UK.

Note that Opbrid are part of Furrer and Frey, the Swiss supplier of railway overhead electrification, who have a quality pedigree and are Network Rail’s supplier of choice for overhead electrification.

Co-location Of Bus And Railway Stations

Bus stations with charging for battery buses and electrified railway lines will both need a high grade connection to the electricity grid.

As an Electrical Engineer, I think it would be prudent to co-locate bus and railway stations so that all heavy users and the parked electric vehicles nearby could share the grid connection.

Both The Hydroliner And The Electroliner Appear To Share A Chassis

Looking at the cutaways on the two web pages for the buses, the chassis of both buses appear to be very similar.

The cutaway for the Electroliner shows some of the batteries low down between the wheels with more stacked up at the back of bus.

On the Hydroliner much of the equipment seems to be stacked up at the back of the bus.

The similar chassis and body designs must surely help production and allow a lot of components to be shared between the two buses.

Drive System

This article on electrive is entitled Voith To Deliver Electric Drives For Wrightbus and this is the first paragraph.

Northern Irish bus manufacturer Wrightbus has selected Voith as its exclusive partner to supply the electric drive system for the second generation of its battery-electric and fuel cell buses for Europe.

The second paragraph, says that Wrightbus has an order for eighty Electroliners for Translink in Northern Ireland to be delivered after August 2021.

This electrive article also described Voith’s electric drive system (VEDS).

The German supplier says it has developed the VDES specifically for the requirements of public transport. The 340 kW electric motor is said to be able to drive even double-decker buses, heavy articulated buses and trucks over long distances. The system also includes a water-cooled converter system, a drive management unit (called DMU), further converters for auxiliary units and the on-board charging management system including the cabling. Voith expects this to result in the highest possible efficiency, as all components are coordinated with each other.

Note the water-cooled converter system.

Running Gear

No vehicle is complete without a good set of wheels and suspension. The first electrive article says this.

Other features of the StreetDeck Electroliner, Wrightbus says, include a ZF rear axle system (AV133) and an independent front suspension system (RL 82 EC), also from ZF.

Few would question the choice of ZF as a supplier.

Conclusion

It looks to me, that Wrightbus have designed two buses, from the best components they can find and fitted them into their own purpose-built chassis and bodywork.

It’s almost as how the great Colin Chapman of Lotus fame would have designed a bus.

 

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July 3, 2021 Posted by | Design, Transport | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My First Ride In A Hydrogen-Powered Double-Deck Bus

Today, I had my first ride in a hydrogen double-deck bus.

I took these pictures.

Note.

  1. I took the No 7 bus in London between Ladbroke Grove tube station and Oxford Circus.
  2. There were still some of the older Volvo hybrid buses on the route.
  3. The current fleet is around twenty buses.

This article on edie.net, is entitled England’s First Hydrogen Double-Decker Buses Hit The Road In London.

I note this paragraph in the article with interest.

Hydrogen used to fuel the new London buses is being produced at Air Liquide’s facility in Runcorn, Cheshire, which processes waste hydrogen from the industrial chemical industry. From 2023, the facility will be converted to produce only green hydrogen – a term used to describe hydrogen produced using electrolysis powered by renewable electricity.

It sounds, that at present the hydrogen could be coming from the old Castner-Kellner plant at ICI’s Runcorn complex. where I had my first job after leaving Liverpool University in the late 1960s.

These are my thoughts.

Refuelling

The edie article says the buses are refuelled once a day, at a facility at Perivale in Ealing.

Interior Design

Londoners will feel at home in these buses, as they have the same look and feel as London’s other double-deck buses.

But they do have some features, borrowed from other means of transport.

  • They have a set of four family seats.
  • Are those two yellow bars in front of where I sat a foot rest?
  • There were a lot of USB- charger sockets.

It is certainly a well-designed interior.

Battery Or Hydrogen?

In A Trip On An Electric Double Deck Bus On Route 212 Between Chingford And St. James Street Stations, I described a trip on an electric double-deck bus.

I would go for the hydrogen, rather than electric.

A friend who runs a bus company in London, says fleets of battery buses are a nightmare to recharge.

The Edie article says once a day is fine.

The battery bus has a higher environmental footprint.

Hydrogen can fuel trucks, cars, vans and semblances, at the same charging station.

But the big problem is most battery buses are Chinese and Transport for London’s hydrogen buses have been built in Northern Ireland.

Performance

\\\thr performance of the bus was spritely!

Conclusion

This was a good bus!

 

June 23, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

JCB Finds Cheap Way To Run Digger Using Hydrogen

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

An operational hydrogen combustion engine developed in Derbyshire could speed up the shift towards zero-emissions transport.

JCB, the construction equipment manufacturer, said that the engine would be capable of powering heavy machinery and vehicles without producing any carbon dioxide.

As they have just modified one of their own production diesel engines to run on hydrogen, this sounds like a major breakthrough of the largest kind!

The caption on the picture says this.

JCB says that the technology could be applied in trucks, vans, trains, buses and even large cars.

What about small cars?

Or perhaps, that market will be left to Aquarius Engines, which I wrote about in New Hydrogen Engine Design Unveiled To Overcome Reliance On Fuel Cells.

You wait months for a major breakthrough in hydrogen propulsion to come along and then two ideas come along in one day.

The article gets better as you read it fully, which I suggest you do.

  • It appears, that development only started last July.
  • The engines are based on their current JCB diesel engines.
  • Emissions include water, no CO2 and practically zero levels of NOx.

The article says this about costs.

It is thought that the hydrogen engines will cost about £10,000 each; costs will be kept down by using the same production lines and many of the same components as diesel engines. By comparison a prototype hydrogen fuel cell system, which is being adapted for a 20-tonne excavator as part of another JCB trial, will cost about £100,000. Batteries needed to power such a machine would probably cost in the region of £160,000, the company said.

When you consider that family member; Joe Bamford owns Wrightbus, I would expect that you’ll see a development of these engines coming to a bus route near you!

Conclusion

I have made money backing developments based on the properties of fluid flow at the small end of gaseous flow.

There are some weird effects there, which are not taught in A-level physics.

Have JCB found how to apply them to create the ultimate zero-carbon power unit?

I’m certainly not ruling it out!

May 22, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , | 5 Comments

Call For Major Investment In Hydrogen Hub To Help Sector Thrive In Northern Ireland

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Northern Ireland is ready to become a global leader in a future hydrogen economy but needs investment of at least £15m from government, politicians have said.

The article makes points about Northern Ireland and hydrogen.

  • Hydrogen-powered buses are built in Ballymena.
  • There is plenty of wind and water to create the hydrogen.
  • Hydrogen could improve export potential and create skilled jobs.

The proposals certainly have good political support.

 

April 19, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Ryse Hydrogen’s Suffolk Freeport Hydrogen Vision Takes Shape

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on S & P Global.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Ryse Hydrogen plans to install a 6 MW electrolyzer at the Sizewell nuclear site in Suffolk as a launchpad for mass production of low carbon hydrogen in and around the future freeport of Felixstowe, company founder Jo Bamford told S&P Global.

Ryse Hydrogen are building the Herne Bay electrolyser.

  • It will consume 23 MW of solar and wind power.
  • It will produce ten tonnes of hydrogen per day.

This would mean that Sizewell’s 6 MW electrolyser could be producing around a thousand tonnes of hydrogen per year or 2.6 tonnes per day.

Note that the port and the power station are only about thirty miles apart.

Suffolk is thinking big again!

The last part of the article is where Jo Bamford discusses the cost of hydrogen and hydrogen buses and how he intends to sell them to the UK and ultimately the world.

Suffolk and Jo Bamford appear to be made for each other, with complementary ambitions.

March 4, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Felixstowe And Harwich Ports Submit Bid For ‘Freeport’ Status

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

These are the first three paragraphs.

A bid for “freeport” status for two existing ports has been submitted after the project was approved by a council.

East Suffolk Council unanimously backed the bid for the Port of Felixstowe and Harwich International to become one of 10 freeport facilities across the UK.

Freeport East would see owners Hutchison operate a single custom zone covering both coastal ports.

I think, some will think this a bit cheeky, but I think it is a product of the characters of the counties of Essex and Suffolk.

I was conceived in Suffolk and have probably spent half my life in the county.

It’s a county that thinks big.

  • Is there another woman, who as Boudica did, assembled an army of hundreds of thousands and attempted to throw an unwelcome invader out of her country?
  • The history of her tribe; the Iceni is closely tied, according to some historians, to the development of the thoroughbred racehorse at New Horse Market or Newmarket as it is known today!
  • Newmarket is to horse racing as St. Andrews is to golf.
  • The town is home of about 3,500 horses and is a major centre for horse and animal health.
  • Newmarket Heath is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is to be the largest area of mown grass in the world.
  • Suffolk sheep are one of the most numerous sheep breeds in the world, having been exported all over the world.
  • Suffolk is the only county in England with its own breed of sheep, cattle (Red Poll) and horse (Suffolk Horse)
  • Bury St. Edmunds Abbey was one of the largest churches in England.

When I was about seven, the Port of Felixstowe was just a small dock exporting grain and now it the busiest container port in the UK and the eighth in Europe.

It is no surprise to me, that Felixstowe and Harwich want to be a Freeport, so they can expand further.

There have already been related news and media reports.

Freeport East Web Site

The Freeport East web site is at www.freeporteast.com.

Read these sections.

It is an ambitious vision. As someone, who believes we must innovate, this paragraph from the Innovation section strikes the right tone.

Beyond the energy sector, Freeport East will also contribute to wider innovation in the technology sector. Hutchison Ports is already working with Cambridge University and Three UK to develop innovative 5G applications. Hutchison Ports is also working with the New Anglia LEP, Tech East and BT’s research centre at Adastral Park on new telecommunications infrastructure. Freeport East will embed these technological innovations at its heart and help to make the UK a world leader in technological innovation

The web site, also talks about the ports becoming major centres for the development and servicing of renewable energy in the North Sea.

A Little Help From Their Friends

I notice that in some reports, they have joined forces with the University of Cambridge. As Cambridge colleges are big local landowners, this can only be to the benefit of the concept.

A Hydrogen Freeport

This article on the Eadt Anglian Daily Times is entitled Top Ports Could Be Powered By Hydrogen In Major Project.

The project is well-described in the article with this infographic, that shows how nuclear power from Siewell and wind power from the North Sea can come together to decarbonise shipping and the port.

This paragraph sums up the hydrogen project.

At its peak, the power project, which will be delivered in partnership with Ryse-Hydrogen and EDF, developers of the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station, will produce 1GW of hydrogen – 20% of the 5GW target in the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.

Suffolk is thinking big again!

It certainly does appear, that several ports are following the hydrogen route. On this blog I have mentioned Antwerp, Holyhead and Portsmouth recently.

So what will the hydrogen be used for?

The East Anglian article says this.

The clean fuel would be used to power port equipment, ships, trucks and trains.

Port Equipment

I think the interesting one is port equipment.

  • The chairman of JCB is Anthony Bamford.
  • His son; Jo Bamford owns Ryse Hydrogen.
  • JCB have recently released a hydrogen-powered digger.
  • JCB is mentioned on the infographic.

Could we be seeing a range of hydrogen-powered port equipment, that has been developed by JCB?

Other companies like Hyster are certainly developing hydrogen-powered port equipment.

Ships

Decarbonisation of ships is difficult, as they need a lot of power and it usually comes from that most noxious of fuels; bunker oil.

The Wikipedia entry for bunker oil, has a section called Environmental Issues, where this is said.

Emissions from bunker fuel burning in ships contribute to air pollution levels in many port cities, especially where the emissions from industry and road traffic have been controlled. The switch of auxiliary engines from heavy fuel oil to diesel oil at berth can result in large emission reductions, especially for SO2 and PM. CO2 emissions from bunker fuels sold are not added to national GHG emissions. For small countries with large international ports, there is an important difference between the emissions in territorial waters and the total emissions of the fuel sold.

A lot of work is being done to power ships with hydrogen.

Provide refuelling for hydrogen-powered ships and you’ll get the business.

Trucks

Diesel trucks hauling goods to and from ports contribute to the pollution in the port, but if they are powered by hydrogen, the pollution for workers and neighbours is less.

I can see some freight terminals adopting a policy of No Hydrogen – No Load, with hauliers.

In Holyhead Hydrogen Hub Planned For Wales, I talked about a hydrogen hub at Holyhead. Will the ports of Dover, Felixstowe and Immingham need to have hydrogen refuelling facilities to handle hydrogen trucks hauling goods between the island of Ireland and Europe?

Trains

It is my belief, that hydrogen freight locomotives will be developed, so Felixstowe will need facilities to fuel the trains.

Imagine two highly-automated ports at Felixstowe and Holyhead, both with large supplies of hydrogen.

  • A hydrogen-powered freight train would link the two ports.
  • Hydrogen-powered handling equipment would load and unload the containers.

How many trucks would that take off the roads between Holyhead and Felixstowe?

Conclusion

The Port of Felixstowe is going to use hydrogen to become more efficient and zero-carbon, and make it more attractive to shippers wanting to pay more than lip-service to decarbonisation.

The EU have constantly accused Boris of turning the UK into Singapore-on-Thames!

But here we are creating Singaport-on-the-Haven.

The EU has freeports, so I guess it’s OK.

February 20, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport, World | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ireland’s First Green Hydrogen Project To Come On Stream ‘In Weeks’

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

This is the first two paragraphs.

Belfast is set to receive Ireland’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker buses in coming weeks using fuel coming from wind energy generated in nearby north Antrim.

The initiative is the first “green hydrogen” project on the island of Ireland and the first step to decarbonise Northern Ireland’s public transport by 2040, according to Mark Welsh, energy services manager with Energia, which is generating the hydrogen at its wind farm near Ballymena.

Green hydrogen is produced by an electrolyser powered by renewable electricity.

The article gives a good summary of the use of hydrogen in Ireland in the future.

But isn’t all hydrogen created and used on the island of Ireland green?

November 4, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Birmingham Announces Hydrogen Bus Pilot

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

The city council has bought 20 new hydrogen double-decker buses as part of its Clean Air Hydrogen Bus Pilot to kick-start the hydrogen market as a viable zero-emission fuel.

The buses will be built by Wrightbus.

October 7, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , | Leave a comment