UK’s Network Rail developing a prototype battery-powered train; trying Li-ion and sodium-nickel batteries
The UK’s Network Rail, the company that runs, maintains and develops Britain’s rail tracks, signaling, bridges, tunnels, level crossings, viaducts and 17 key stations, is part of an industry study into the feasibility of using battery electric trains on parts of the railway which have not been electrified.
Other partners in the project include The Department for Transport; Enabling Innovation Team (set up to accelerate the uptake of innovation in the rail industry); Greater Anglia and Bombardier.
Network Rail says that the project is an important part of its strategy of increasing the electrification of the railway, delivering improved sustainability whilst reducing the burden on the taxpayer. A battery-powered train could use non-electrified and diesel lines, and recharge their batteries at terminal stations—i.e., electric traction could be introduced to more parts of the railway without the need to necessarily extend the electrification infrastructure.
Working closely with Derby-based train manufacturer Bombardier and operator Greater Anglia, the project will use one of the operator’s Class 379s as a test-bed to determine future battery requirements and what kind of train might be needed.
This train will be adapted by Bombardier and fitted with two different forms of batteries: lithium (iron magnesium) phosphate and hot sodium nickel salt. The batteries will undergo many lab tests before being fitted to the train.
The modified train will then undergo a variety of tests off network. If these tests prove successful, the train will then run on an electrified branch line on the Anglia route, yet to be chosen, with its pantograph down. This is so that if there is a problem, it can raise its pantograph, and collect power again. This running will be both in and out of passenger service and by the end of 2014, the trial will be complete.