Rolls-Royce entered into a new contract to try out hybrid-electric powertrains to replace diesel engines in trains.
As with any news surrounding Rolls-Royce and electrification, this is situated in a specific area and may take a few years before it "rolls" out. The new agreement applies to trains in Britain and may impact hundreds of trains by the 2020s. The contract is with a company called Porterbrook, which Reuters calls "the UK's largest owner of passenger rolling stock."
Rolls-Royce focuses on much more than just cars. In fact, the British company is best known for its aircraft engines, as well as engines for trains, trucks, mining vehicles, ships, and yachts. Rolls-Royce Power systems CEO Andreas Schell says that hybrid tech could be the answer for all of the above. He told Reuters:
We expect hybrid technology to grow at above the current growth rates of diesel.
We're going into serious production now. No more R&D projects, no more demonstrators. Serious production.
Yes, serious production of new hybrid and electrified systems. While it may take some time, Rolls-Royce is setting a course to make the switch. As it turns out, current diesel trains are able to be retrofitted with these new Rolls-Royce Hybrid PowerPacks. Essentially, they'll become hybrid trains with the ability to run on only battery power alone. The company's recent press release reads:
The MTU Hybrid PowerPack is an environmentally friendly drive system which combines the advantages of diesel and battery-powered rail traction. The version for Porterbrook incorporates an MTU diesel engine which fulfills future EU Stage V emissions regulations; plus an electric machine, which can be used either as an electric motor or generator; and an MTU EnergyPack battery system, which stores the energy recovered during braking. This enables very low-noise, emissions-free battery-only electric operation in urban areas and around stations.
This is all in support of Britain's goal to rid of diesel-only trains by 2040. While the new systems are only set to be partially electrified, this is a step in the right direction, and further adaptations could be made in the interim. Currently, Britain has about 42 percent of its trains electrified, which is surprisingly still behind other European countries. With Rolls-Royce's efforts, this may change in the coming years.
The new trial will begin in 2020 on two test trains and continue to progress after the initial studies.