Vivarail and Hoppecke will work together to design and integrate batteries for Vivarail’s Class 230 trains. The deal cements the relationship between the two companies for a long-term future in developing battery trains for the UK rail industry.
Vivarail launched the UK’s first passenger battery train in the last 50 years in October 2018. As well as demonstrating that battery trains are ready for service now, new data was collected that allowed Vivarail to assess and confirm performance data on a challenging route with many steep gradients. The train was accompanied by its mobile charging unit which was used for a few hours each night to provide a day’s worth of charge.
A 3-car Class 230 train can run for 65 miles between charges—meaning they are more than able to operate numerous routes throughout the UK, and active conversations are taking place with interested operators.
Battery trains enable emission-free rail travel in areas where electrification is either non- or only partially existent. The trains are particularly suited to urban routes where authorities wish to eliminate pollution caused by traditional DMUs as well as scenic lines where the natural environment needs protecting.
Currently Vivarail is building a fleet of diesel/battery hybrids to operate the Wrexham-Bidston line for Transport for Wales, where the diesel gensets will be used to charge the batteries, not to power the train. This power variant gives the range of a diesel train, the performance of an EMU (with acceleration of 1m p/s/s up to 40 miles per hour) and combines it with emission-free travel. As well as using the genset to charge the batteries the train also has regenerative braking, as do all the battery trains.
Designs for other types of hybrid trains exist including the use of existing OHL with a pantograph and transformer and 3rd rail with shoegear. Additionally, a new hydrogen variant is being developed which, similarly to the diesel hybrid, will exceed the pure battery train’s range of 65 miles.
Hoppecke’s Lithium Ion batteries are suited for the Class 230s by providing the rapid charging needed for battery trains. Simulations and performance data show that many non-electrified routes can be operated by the Class 230 battery trains and to make this possible in the short-term Vivarail has designed and patented an automatic charging system and battery bank. This means that costs of both infrastructure upgrades and daily operation are hugely minimised – in some cases by millions of pounds.