Eversholt Rail and Vivarail have signed an agreement aimed at developing battery power – and range extension – to the Class 321 ‘Renatus’ fleet.

The 30 unit ‘Renatus’ fleet is a product of £65m investment in AC traction, air conditioning and upgraded interior.  Completed in 2019, it provides a high-quality passenger experience, proven reliability in intensive operations and is widely compatible on the UK network. This fleet is currently operating on the Greater Anglia network until the introduction of their new trains is completed.

Eversholt Rail and Vivarail are committed to supporting the UK Government’s ambition to decarbonise its rail sector by 2050, and the Scottish Government’s objective of doing so by 2035. This proven and reliable fleet is an excellent fit in terms of characteristics, fleet size and availability for conversion to a Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU). Vivarail, as the designers and manufacturers of the UK’s only battery and hybrid trains currently in passenger service are well positioned to progress this development.

We will be working together to develop a design to integrate battery technology to provide between 20 to 30 miles of self-propulsion. Enabling the fleet to operate on non-electrified or partly electrified routes would offer the opportunity to increase the range of modern, low-carbon options to accommodate passenger demand; to enable fleet cascades; to improve the passenger experience; and to bring air quality and decarbonisation benefits to local areas.

Through discussion with train operators, regional sponsors and DfT a number of opportunities have been identified across the network. The technical and safety case development will continue throughout 2022 and in parallel Eversholt Rail and Vivarail will be engaging with the market to assess the viability of potential routes. This will inform the decision on further investment in the fleet.

Paul Sutherland, Client Services Director at Eversholt Rail said, “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Vivarail on this exciting project to develop our C321 fleet which will support the UK’s decarbonisation targets. We have a proud history of innovation and investing in our fleets to meet changing requirements, exploring the viability of integrating battery technology to the Renatus fleet is the natural next step. Battery trains offer an ideal solution for routes with partly and un-electrified lines, enabling the replacement of diesel trains and bringing the air quality and decarbonisation benefits.”

Steve McBride, MD of Vivarail, said: “Vivarail are delighted to be collaborating with Eversholt Rail Group on this exciting project. Working towards installing our latest generation battery technology into existing Class 321 Renatus units enables these trains to operate beyond the overhead wires, reducing reliance on diesel trains and reducing carbon emissions. Great British Railways is set to deliver the most ambitious changes in our railways seen in a generation. I am proud to say that Vivarail are ready for the challenge and look forward to contributing to the industry’s commitments for decarbonisation.”

Vivarail is also working with Kiepe Electric GmbH to develop the design.

Alexander Ketterl, MD of Kiepe Electric, said “Kiepe Electric GmbH are glad to have been nominated to deliver this project for the upgrade of the previously supplied modern AC traction equipment of the Class 321 Renatus units with innovative energy management technology and the required auxiliary equipment. This is a major milestone for Kiepe Electric and we are excited and motivated to contribute towards more green and sustainable railway operations in the UK.“