Emission-free trains today …

Battery trains are nothing new – the first one came into service over 100 years ago! But making them suitable for today’s demanding railways has been a major challenge – until now.

A 60 mile range and patented fast charge systems

Clever design and engineering were needed to build a train that could meet demanding service patterns – there would be no point trying to produce one that could provide the range but be unable to charge in the required time. After all operators need to reduce dwell time as well as emissions!  So we had to balance these important factors:

– cutting emissions
– meeting or improving timetable demands
– prioritising safety of passengers and staff
– keeping costs of installation and infrastructure low
– working within the constraints of the national grid

No mean feat but thanks to an Innovate UK grant as part of the Innovation in Rail programme the Class 230 battery train does all of this!

So what did we do?

1. Prove a battery train could operate a real route which we did last October in Scotland carrying passengers over 3 days2. Design a fast-charge system based on existing technology – in this case 3rd and 4th rail – and combine it with innovative developments such as our carbon ceramic shoe as well as making the system autonomous so nothing is live when the train is not in place and no manual intervention is required from the driver

3. Reduce the draw on the national grid by buiding an accompanying battery bank from second-use batteries to trickle charge itself and then ‘dump’ all the necessary power back into the train in a short space of time – about 7 minutes to full recharge after a journey of 60 miles
How does it work?

The concept is simple – at the terminus 4 short sections of 3rd and 4th rail are installed and connected to the electronic control unit and the battery bank. Whilst the train is in service the battery bank trickle charges itself from the national grid – the benefit of this is that there is a continuous low-level draw such as an EMU would use rather than a one-off huge demand for power.

The train pulls into the station as normal and the shoegear connects with the sections of charging rail.  The driver need do nothing other than stop in the correct place as per normal and the rail is not live until the train is in place.

That’s it!

Sections of 3rd and 4th rail each a metre or so long are installed – there is no need for any expensive infrastructure upgrades with the fast charge system.The train’s shoegear is made of ceramic carbon so it is able to withstand the heat generated during the fast charge process.  It connects with the raised sections as the train pulls to a stop.
The electronic control unit is sited trackside with the battery bank and manages the current between the train and the power source.

In some places there may be sufficient capacity for the train to use the national grid but the bank ensures that battery trains can operate even where that is not possible.

Other news …

Marston Vale trains

All trains have been delivered to the Bletchley depot for final testing and acceptance by London Northwestern – looking very smart and coming into service soon!

Wrexham-Bidston trains

Testing is well underway on the diesel/battery hybrids being built for Transport for Wales.  These trains have two batteries on each driving motor car and four diesel gensets on the middle car.  The trains have the range of a traditional DMU but significantly cut emissions and noxious fumes.

New production facility

To meet the increased build schedule we have constructed a brand-new 9-car workshop which was opened by Adrian Shooter this week.  Trains will move from our strip-out shed through to the main workshop and then to our in-house paint facility – making a seamless process for easy and swift build.

North America

The first 2-car battery train for the US is under construction and due to be shipped out this summer.

The train will be used to demonstrate pop-up metro services for the US where eliminating emissions – especially in cities – is as important as in the UK.

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