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GWR battery train trial

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GWR battery train trial - Sunday, 16.06.2024

Historically, poor range has limited the use of batteries for regular passenger rail services. This is set to change. Now, innovative battery and charging technology is making its mark. The day when battery-powered trains routinely transport people around the UK is a step closer. Great Western Railway (GWR) is taking the lead. Our battery technology plays a vital role. We’re delighted to partner GWR in its battery train trial. 


GWR battery train trial 

GWR’s rolling stock has a proven track record. The trial therefore centres on its fast charge battery system, originally developed by Vivarail. Held over 12 months, using a 230 three-car test unit, the trial will gauge performance on the 2.5-mile Greenford branch. Tests will evaluate how fast charge performs in real-life scenarios. Key parameters include weather conditions, loads and driving styles. The resulting data will enable GWR to determine how to maximise the battery system’s capabilities on its branch lines. 


Testing to date 

Initial testing was between Long Marston, Evesham, Honeybourne and Moreton-in-Marsh. February saw the unit set a record, travelling 86 miles without charge. The journey involved short runs, several climbs and frequent stops. A 70-mile compatibility test to Reading ensued. Here, the train used less than 45% of battery capacity. Now, the unit is based at West Ealing Siding. 


Powered by Hoppecke 

Undoubtedly, fast charge is an exciting innovation. Capability is up to 2000kW. This compact system is powered by three of our 70kWh lithium-ion phosphate battery rafts. Each has the capacity to store 84kWh. Accordingly, 504kWh is available for use by the train’s four AC traction motors. The system incorporates two battery racks on each driving vehicle. Only two vehicles are in use at any time. The third is a spare. 


Safe charging 

As ever, safety is paramount. Fast charge sits on short charge rails between the running rails. Fully covered by the train, they are live during charging only. Charging is via retractable shoe gear served by two trackside 430kWh battery banks. Continuously trickle charged, these batteries operate off the local 400V three-phase electricity network. For added flexibility, a separate facility charges the unit overnight. 


Charging boost 

At West Ealing the train charges for three and a half minutes before recommencing its journey. This process will not return the battery to 100% capacity. It does, however, boost capability. GWR’s aim is to maintain batteries at 10% to 90% charge since the train can fully top up in the turnaround at West Ealing. 



During the trial, engineers on board the train monitor performance. Additionally, the control room team conduct remote assessments. Data incorporates the level of charge for the train. Results also indicate the charge in each battery. Engineers can determine when the train is charging and check the status of the shoe gear.  


Leading the charge 

This trial is the first of its kind. We’re delighted to help GWR, the Department for Transport and Network Rail understand what it will take to roll out the technology across the UK’s rail network. Right now, improved battery capacity and charging technology are key. Recharging along the line extends the train’s range. It means a battery-powered unit can operate to the same timetable as its diesel counterpart. Charging is safe. Equally importantly, the impact on the local grid is minimal. 


Future roll out 

A successful GWR battery train trial can herald an exciting future. Already, the company has sufficient D-Stock units to potentially roll out fast charge on its Thames Valley branch lines. The flexibility of the body-mounted shoe gear also plays an important part, facilitating the deployment of the technology on various types of train. 



Find out more about Hoppecke rail energy solutions. Call 01782 667 306 or email sales(at)  

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