In a UK-first, Hitachi Rail
and Eversholt Rail
have signed an exclusive agreement aimed at bringing battery power – and fuel savings of more than 20% – to the modern Great Western Railway Intercity Express Trains that carry passengers between Penzance and London.
The railway line to the South West is only partially electrified, with the majority of the 300-mile journey requiring diesel power. The partnership is looking at batteries replacing a diesel engine as a power source on an existing Hitachi-built five-carriage train – currently known as a bi-mode for its ability to switch seamlessly between electric and diesel power.
Adding a battery creates an electric-diesel-battery hybrid train (tri-mode). On non-electrified sections of the route, the batteries will supplement the power of the engines to reduce fuel usage and carbon emissions by more than 20%. Whereas when travelling in and out of stations and surrounding urban areas, the train would rely on battery power only. Improving air quality and significantly reducing noise levels
This also has the benefit of improving air quality and significantly reducing noise levels, creating a more pleasant environment for passengers and people living near the railway line. GWR’s Intercity Express Train fleet currently calls at 15 non-electrified stations on its journey between Penzance and London, all of which could benefit from trains running on battery-only power.
Hitachi Rail will draw upon market-leading expertise in Japan, and the support of its battery partner – Hyperdrive Innovation. The two North East-based companies reached an agreement in July 2020 to create and develop battery packs for mass production at Hyperdrive’s HYVE facility in Sunderland, the UK’s first independent battery pack manufacturing facility.
The projected improvements in battery technology – particularly in power output and charge – create opportunities to replace incrementally more diesel engines on long distance trains. With the ambition to create a fully electric-battery intercity train – that can travel the full journey between London and Penzance – by the late 2040s, in line with the UK’s 2050 net-zero emissions target.
Jim Brewin, Hitachi Rail UK & Ireland Country Lead, said: “This partnership is an exciting opportunity to unlock new ‘greener’ trains for passengers, reduce running costs for operators and cut carbon. At Hitachi Rail we share the UK’s ambition for a net-zero emissions future. Britain is in a unique position to become a global leader in battery trains, we want support the UK’s green economic recovery and levelling-up of the regions.”
Eversholt Rail CEO Mary Kenny said: “We are delighted to continue working in partnership with Hitachi to investigate the conversion of our Class 802 fleet to tri-mode by introducing battery technology. Eversholt Rail is committed to ensuring our fleets meet the UK Railway’s decarbonisation commitments.”
Mike Gallop, Network Rail’s interim Wales and Western regional managing director, said: “We welcome this agreement particularly as it supports our recently published Traction Decarbonisation Strategy and our commitment to supporting the UK’s 2050 net-zero emissions target. It also builds on the positive impact of electrification and our ambition to deliver ‘greener’ and more sustainable travel.”