Rail Industry Focus

01.05.15

Bombardier enters key analysis phase of IPEMU

Source: RTM Apr/May 15

Marc Phillips, head of engineering projects at Bombardier Transportation, discusses the latest phase of the IPEMU battery-powered train project and what this could mean for the future.

In the February/March edition of RTM, we reported that Network Rail and Bombardier Transportation had just completed testing the first battery-powered passenger train to run on Britain’s rail network in more than half a century. 

Following the five-week trial, which saw the IPEMU (Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit) prototype run passengers between Harwich International and Manningtree stations in Essex, researchers have now entered into what they call a key data analysis phase. 

Although the reconfigured Abellio Greater Anglia Class 379 Electrostar – powered by Valence lithium iron magnesium phosphate batteries – has been converted back to its original state and is operating in normal service once more, Bombardier is carrying out a significant amount of off-train engineering and comparing the trial and test data. 

“We are now in a phase of analysis and this could influence the overall design of the batteries,” Marc Phillips, head of engineering projects at Bombardier, told RTM. 

“I would like to emphasise that we have off-train repeat testing that is being done in Mannheim, Germany. Although it is not visible in the public eye with a demonstrator, there is a significant amount of engineering work going on off-train that is being tested and the data from the trial is being used to approximate the actual real performance – primarily for a better life operating cycle and how long they [the batteries] will last.” 

During the five-week trial, the researchers measured temperature and state of charge and how the battery management system was working. The train’s TCMS (Train Control and Management System) also gave valuable performance data. 

“Once we were out on the passenger line there was very little difference from the testing we had seen at Old Dalby,” said Phillips. But the battery management system does need analysis and assessment. The system may have been designed in an over-cautious and over-protected way – valid during a trial, but worth looking at it again. 

Closing the triangle 

Engineers in Mannheim are comparing four battery types, including the Valence batteries used on the demonstrator. 

“What we’ve seen from the trial is that there is some work that we’ve still to finish on understanding the number of batteries that we apply for a particular performance,” he said. “We are looking at the packaging design in terms of how we pack the batteries together and how we monitor the overall temperature of the batteries for service. This is all to do with closing the triangle.”

Phillips added that the team has been able to define performance and range, and there is an understanding of what the batteries can perform like at the extremes. 

However, batteries decay over time. “We are assessing a five-year simulated life, which gives us a decent business case to move forward with a financial benefit for doing it. If you start dropping below three years the whole assessment on change-out and cost kills the concept,” he explained. 

“The focus is now on the life of the battery and controlling the performance of the train to protect the batteries for the longest possible period of time.”

Market applications 

Bombardier has started assessing potential customers for battery-powered trains, looking first at branch line applications. Batteries could be a solution allowing non-continuous electrified infrastructure, and emergency rescue and last-mile opportunities. 

“We’ve got four batteries that are being compared to each other to give us a good market spread of technology and where they would be most likely applicable against the key requirements that we’ve defined for those particular operating modes,” he said. 

“The key is the branch line and we’ve got various opportunities in the market to do further demonstrators looking at different retrofit opportunities to enable that demonstrator. We are currently talking with train operators, as we speak, about opportunities.” 

He added that the team is also forming a picture of what the various operational/characterisation modes are for the UK rail network, but this work isn’t finished yet. 

Retrofitting 

On the reconfigured Class 379, the DMOS, PTOSL(W) and DMOC cars were standard, but the MOSL car was converted to a ‘Trailer Battery Car (BOS)’. The MCM (motor converter module), CET tank and power bogie were also removed, and the pipework and cabling reconfigured because of equipment being relocated and the toilet was locked out. 

Asked about the retrofit and what this could mean for other rolling stock, Phillips told us: “All Electrostars to some degree can be retrofitted with batteries. We are talking the newer generation EMU as well as the older generation. So, the 387s and 378s are the ones where we have re-gen braking where we can top-up the batteries and use the braking energy to charge the batteries. That gives us the best cost-benefit over operational life.” 

Older EMUs make the business case more difficult, he said, but it can still technically be achieved. 

Bombardier is also looking at battery options on new builds, including its Aventra platform.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com 

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