Vivarail Limited, the Stratford-upon-Avon designer and manufacturer of modular trains, demonstrated its battery-powered trains this week at COP26 in Glasgow.
The demonstration trip for invited guests operated on the 11.8 km Glasgow Central – Barrhead line. Vivarail design director, Mr Neil Bates, explained that using assumptions for a two-car train operating on a 160km line, battery technology will cost £1.37 per kilometre compared with £2.49 for diesel and £2.58 for fuel cell hydrogen.
The three-car former London Underground class 230 D-Train used to demonstrate battery power in Scotland is fitted with six batteries – three in driving car. During operation four batteries are in use with two spare, so if two batteries fail, the train can still reach its destination said Vivarail chair, Adrian Shooter.
According to a report in the International Rail Journal, there is huge potential for battery trains, Mr Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s Group Safety and Engineering Director.
He suggested branch lines would be better served by battery trains instead of investing huge sums in electrification, and battery technology could offer a last-mile solution for freight trains in terminals and would reduce the cost of electrification by offering the opportunity to introduce partial electrification on certain routes, helping to avoid expensive demolition or modification of structures.
Vivarail is a firm proponent that electrification is the most logical method of decarbonising the railways. However, there are many areas where it would the business case would not stack up. There are also areas where installing the wires is very difficult. And with the race to meet zero emission targets in the next couple of decades some projects just cannot be completed in time.
Batteries are the logical solution – the technology is mature and they are a simple way to extend the electrified network without needing to put in wires.
Whilst other zero emission technologies are in their infancy, battery trains have been in operation for over 100 years. Vivarail’s next generation battery systems can provide unlimited range by using its patented Fast Charge system – able to recharge the train in circa 10 minutes. And at a fraction of the cost of traditional electrification.