Vivarail successfully demonstrated the capabilities of a fast charge system, marking the conclusion of a 12-month project supported by a grant from the Accelerating Innovation in Rail 4 competition, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered by InnovateUK to develop new technology.
Charge times can be as little as 7 minutes even for a 60-miles (96.5 km) journey for the train to draw enough power to run daily services. The train’s range of over 60 miles between charges gives operators a wide choice of potential lines to run zero emission trains.
As well as range and speed of charge the main hurdle facing battery train implementation is the ability to access a suitable power source. As a battery train needs to draw a lot of power in a short space of time, Vivarail has completed the suite of equipment with a battery bank. This bank consists of packaged second-use batteries and is connected to the main grid to trickle charge itself continuously. It is the power stored in the battery bank that is then ‘dumped’ into the train in the short time available.
The development of the accompanying fast charging system means the trains have an extremely wide application across the country. The system comprises short sections of 3rd and 4th rail which connect to the train via shoegear. The train pulls to a stop at the terminus and the shoegear connects to the rail to draw the current at an extremely high rate which is crucial as it ensures the train continues to meet timetabling demands.
Due to the high currents required for the train Vivarail uses a carbon ceramic shoe able to withstand the heat generated in the process, without this shoe the charge time would make operational running unfeasible. As well as the rate of charge Vivarail also needed to develop a safe method of connecting the power source to the train.
Currently, Vivarail is the only UK company with an operational battery train with a range of 60 or more miles (96.5 km) between charges and the accompanying charging system. Vivarail previously ran the Class 230 battery train as a passenger train on the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway with the support of Transport Scotland and Scotrail in October 2018. That trial demonstrated that the battery train was able to provide a reliable and consistent service and proved that the electronic control systems were fully functional.
The train, fast charging system and battery bank combine to give a simple yet effective solution to removing diesel trains from the UK network.