Battery Power Passenger Train Trial Now Underway In UK – Video

FEB 11 2015 BY JAY COLE 14

Currently, a trial run in the United Kingdom is seeing a battery power train charter passengers on a weekday service run  between Harwich International and Manningtree stations in Essex.

Network Rail Train Has 6 Battery Rafts With About 1.1 mWh Of Estimated Capacity On Board

Network Rail Train Has 6 Battery Rafts With About 1.1 MWh Of Estimated Capacity On Board

The train, a modified Class 379 Electrostar, or  IPEMU (Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit) is the first battery powered train to run in the UK in over 50 years.  The standard Class 379 Electrostar runs via an overhead 25 kV AC system.

Network Rail said that the train will aid in the company’s goal of reducing railway costs by 20% over the next 5 years.

“We are always looking for ways to reduce the cost of running the railway and make it greener too. This project has the potential to contribute significantly towards both those goals.”  – Network Rail principal engineer James Ambrose.

The UK company says if the trial runs are met with success, Network Rail could start replacing older diesel engines currently in service elsewhere on the lines.

“After months of engineering and testing, the train is running just as we would like it. We’ll be using this five-week period to gather data on how it handles during passenger service – most travellers will recognise how quiet and smooth the ride is compared to a diesel-powered train.”

Network Rail Battery Train In Operation In January In The UK

Network Rail Battery Train In Operation In January In The UK

Thanks to the onboard batteries, the modified train is capable of running on or off non-electrifies lines, expanding its available coverage.

As powering a train is nothing like a passenger car, just how many batteries are required to make that happen?  Mr. Ambrose says about 80,000 cells, such as is found inside a Tesla Model S from the looks of the video above (18650s), but provided by battery supplier Valence out of Texas (using lithium iron magnesium phosphate battery technology).  If our rough math is correct, that is about 1.1 MWh of capacity.

Total range of the train is not stated by the company at this point, but a testing update (as reported by RTM) updated the hopeful operating parameters:

“… the trial performance targets were: a range of 50km (regional service); an acceleration and speed similar to a DMU; operational cycles of 30km battery and 50km overhead; a lifetime of five to seven years; and a “high level of intrinsic safety”.”

Network Rail, Hat tip to offib!


Categories: Battery Tech


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14 Comments on "Battery Power Passenger Train Trial Now Underway In UK – Video"

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I assume you mean MWh. mWh would either be sad or astonishing.


astonishing for sure to have 50km range with few milliwatts hour of energy. Who knows if in 100 years this won’t be possible.
Still futile in the grand scheme of things but mildly interesting vis-a-vis engineering endeavors.

I hate you all, (=

/just kidding, caption fixed to MWh – thanks!

And, huh…

“The standard Class 379 Electostar runs via an overhead 25 kW AC system”

Less than half the power of a Smart ED, passengers better not be in a hurry (unless going downhill both ways, of course).
Fortunately, it’s actually 25 kV.

Oh, and Electrostar is missing the first R too… (*ducks*)

Must. Control. Fist. Of. Death.

Cutting your diesel cost in half, futile?
It’s a good start.

This is a wonderful development. We need this here in Silicon Valley. Our commuter train still uses diesel. Imagine if it can have batteries and gets a quick charge at every stop, just enough to push it to the next station.

I wouldn’t hold my breath. BART is already adding their “new” East Contra Costa extension using DMUs. Britain moves forward with battery powered trains, BART moves backwards with diesel trains.

Or perhaps we should hold our breath.


A quickcharge at every stop is not possible with this lowcost 18650 batteries.
You would need a liquid cooled high performance pouch cell battery like in Bombardier primove trains.

I gather the utility of this train will be it will run and simultaneously charge on a ‘wired’ line, and then veer off onto a non-electrified rail.

Smart thinking. After getting up to speed, on level ground, not so much juice is needed to keep the train running and some juice is available to get the batteries fully charged for transition to the non-electrified part of its travels.

What’s the benefit of carrying heavy and space-consuming batteries on the train over installing a third rail or overhead wire powered by a stationary battery recharged at night with unused baseload electricity?

The investment costs of overhead lines are rather expensive and they require therefore consider amount of train traffic to be feasible. Battery powered trains can serve on routes that are seeing only few trains per day.

The idea is that battery storage is already cheaper than Diesel and in rails the weight of batteries do not matter that much.

Eventually we can get rid of expensive catenary on most rail lines and we can replace them with on board batteries.

“As powering a train is nothing like a passenger car,…”

Um… in what way is it different (other than being an order of magnitude or 2 bigger)? MW