Why it’s important to recondition rail batteries


Why it’s important to recondition rail batteries - Friday, 22.10.2021

With rail batteries, performance is vital. As is reliability. So, observing the recommended five-year refurbishment schedule is key. It’s best practice. And pays dividends long term. But why is it so important to recondition rail batteries?


Battery system maintenance

Quite simply, battery system maintenance is vital to the successful running of a railway. Engines must start, whatever the weather conditions. Signalling and control systems must operate even if mains power fails. Passengers need reassurance. Emergency ventilation, lighting, communication and other security measures must function. At all times.


Reliability and performance

Rail batteries also provide a failsafe. Back-up power prevents cut-outs due to surges, spikes and short-term power losses. That’s why batteries for rail applications must meet high standards. Ultimately, it’s a question of reliability and performance.


Temperature characteristics

Thanks to their electrochemistry our Fibre Nickel Cadmium (FNC) batteries perform well at extremely low temperatures. The electrolyte only acts as an ion conductor. Consequently, it's density doesn’t change with the state of charge. So, there’s no risk of freezing. Even when batteries are stored in low charge conditions. The technology also impresses at high temperatures. Battery ageing doesn’t increase disproportionately. It’s possible to achieve a long service life in warm ambient conditions.


Service life

NiCd cells aren’t subject to many ageing effects, such as corrosion. Therefore, an operating life of 15+ years is common. Rolling stock operators avoid inconvenient and expensive battery changes. The technology also scores highly when it comes to cycle stability. Our FNC cells average between 3,000 and 4,000 cycles at a depth of discharge of 80%.


Robust technology

Certainly, the technology is robust. It can withstand the most arduous conditions. That’s why it’s reliable in everyday use. It copes well with occasional mishandling, such as overcharging. Even storage in an uncharged condition is not an issue. No failure modes, such as thermal runaway or sudden failure.


Proven capabilities

Crucially, our FNC technology is proven. The meantime between failures is around 9 million hours. In other words, our batteries don’t tend to break down. They are regarded as a high integrity system. Yes, they will begin to weaken with age, but have a design life of 25+ years. But there is never a catastrophic failure. Train operators can predict end of life.


Maintenance is key to battery performance

Maintaining existing rolling stock instead of investing in new trains makes economic sense. So, rail operators want to reduce costs and extend battery life. But for batteries to perform they require reconditioning and regular maintenance. Without a service overhaul, the lifecycle suffers. You might get only 12 years out of a battery, instead of 15+. The life of a train is typically around 35 years. If properly reconditioned, two FNC batteries will see you through.


The reconditioning process

For optimum performance, we recommend reconditioning every five years. The benefit is clear. Elimination or reduction of capacity loss. Reconditioning involves repeatedly discharging/charging the battery system with constant current to restore the available capacity. A check on the electrolyte level is part of the process. Our engineers also measure the single cell voltages.


Why it’s important to recondition rail batteries

In times gone by British Rail had its own depots. So, the company carried out battery refurbishing in-house. But, with privitisation, today’s rail infrastructure is markedly different. Nowadays, train operators routinely outsource to reliable suppliers.


Here to help

Quality NiCd batteries, such as our FNC units, offer a highly cost-effective solution. Performance and high reliability. Yet, adhering to a five-year reconditioning programme is vital. As is regular servicing. Only then can batteries operate at peak efficiency for as long as possible. Call us today to discuss your requirements.