UK battery-powered trains a possibility

The US already has one and now the UK is tinkering with the idea of making battery-operated trains, with the government publishing a study to say that the vehicles are a future possibility for the country, according to a report in The Guardian. The new breed of electric loco would run an intercity service of 600 miles on a single charge and be an alternative to diesel engines on those lines that are prohibitively expensive to electrify.

An eight metric tonne battery would power such a train using a super capacitor or flywheel for the varying power requirements of the route. The reason it probably won’t happen any time soon? Cost, of course… mainly because the battery alone which would set back the rail company GBP£150,000 per year in replacement costs.

New battery charging algorithm increases capacity 30% for electric loco cells

It’s not just what you do, it’s the way you do it. That’s what researchers into lead acid batteries found, when they successfully designed a charging algorithm to overcome some of the aging processes that plague this type of energy storage unit.

The batteries in question are the one thousand individual cells powering Norfolk Southern Railway No. 999, the first all-electric, battery-powered locomotive in the United States. Like all acid-lead batteries, they suffer from a sulphation, a condition where lead sulphate builds up on the electrodes and, as an insulator, impedes cell performance. The Penn State University research team overcame it by a simple variation in charging rate for the battery.

The improvement of 30%, without the need for any physical or chemical changes in the batteries, is obviously good news for anyone wanting to promote the use of lead-acid energy storage in heavy applications such as this.

VYCON to install $3.6m flywheel on metro

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has awarded VYCON a contract worth $3.6 million to install a Wayside Energy Storage Substation (WESS) at the Los Angeles Metro Red Line Westlake/MacArthur Park station. The WESS will use VYCON’s REGEN clean-energy flywheel systems to capture and store part of the energy normally lost by the trains through braking.

The energy will then be available to trains in acceleration in a clean, instantaneous form, says the company.