Posted 14th December 2018 | 6 Comments

Vivarail moves ahead with battery deal

ROLLING stock company Vivarail has signed a deal with battery manufacturer Hoppecke for its Class 230 trains.

Vivarail is supplying the converted London Underground cars to several operators, including Transport for Wales.

The company launched a battery-only train in Scotland in October, which included test runs on gradients. A mobile charging unit topped up the batteries overnight.

A 3-car Class 230 running only on batteries can cover around 100km between charges, and Vivarail said ‘active conversations are taking place with interested operators’.

The latest development has moved the research on from various hybrid concepts, such as diesel/battery, to battery-only operation.

Hoppecke manufactures Lithium Ion batteries which Vivarail said are ‘ideally suited’ for its Class 230s, because such batteries can be charged rapidly.

Vivarail CEO Adrian Shooter said: ’We are delighted to be working with Hoppecke – a company with similar values to our own. Hoppecke has built a strong reputation for innovation, building customer relations and genuinely smart products.  We have taken our time choosing a supplier with whom we want to work for many years as our order pipeline continues to grow. Together with Hoppecke we will be able to provide our customers with battery trains that are reliable, quick to market and with a rapidly increasing range. I look forward to the first of our Class 230 trains complete with Hoppecke batteries coming into service soon.’

Hoppecke CEO Dr Marc Zoellner said his company had been following Vivarail’s progress with ‘great interest’, and that Hoppecke was delighted to be associated with the continuing development of battery-powered trains.

The Class 230s are a rebuild of former London Transport D78 stock, which came into service on the District Line in 1980. The project has now been running experimentally for several years using rolling stock from the District Line, but the use of batteries rather than automotive engines is a recent development.

Vivarail is already building a fleet of diesel/battery hybrids to operate the Wrexham-Bidston line for Transport for Wales, where the diesel generators on board will be used to charge the batteries rather than provide the motive power directly.

West Midlands Trains has also signed a contract to use the trains on its route between Bedford and Bletchley, although a technical matter has delayed their introduction, originally planned for this month. At the end of October, Adrian Shooter of Vivarail  said he was ‘confident that my team will deliver the finished trains with a minimal delay’.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • John B, London

    I'm really having difficulties understanding the "excitement" over a unit which has a life expectancy that is probably 30-40% of a new unit whilst costing not much less than a new unit and having a top speed of 60mph. They are no more an "upgrade" of pacers than the Morris Marina was an improvement on the Morris Minor.

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    With confirmed orders for Marston Vale & Transport for Wales Vivarail have certainly shown that their concept can add value to the industry. Certainly one area to be explored is as a low cost start up for some line reopening proposals that appear forever stalled such as the Ashington route in the North East.

    As to funding such proposals perhaps in the light of the fallout from the poor performance during 2018 and the likelihood of fines levied on various operators & NR rather than disappearing into a general pot could not this be ring fenced to kick start some of the schemes? Too often these have been bogged down with an over prescriptive specification making a cost effective business case uneconomic. Is the time now right for a basic pop up railway as a means to prove demand? History shows that may past reopenings started small before flowering to the successful operations of today.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Just to develop a bit further , a straight high speed intercity emu could carry batteries instead of auxilliary diesel engines in order to reach destinations on non - electrified branches ( eg Euston - Barrow, King's Cross - Lincoln ,etc.).

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    I think it’s a brilliant idea. Plus the Class 230 battery electric units could operate on short local branch lines in England to help improve services and people moving. Aswell building the diesel-electric Class 230s for local rural and longer commuter services. Plus replacing the Class 143 & Class 244 Pacers in Wales that KeliosAmey Wales (TfW Rail) are to order new Class 230 Diesel-Electric and Battery-Electric units. With West Midlands Trains to start using the Class 230 DEMUs on the Marston Vale Line before the end of this year.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    A guesstimate would be more expensive on first cost, compared to other traction, but with a lot lower maintenance costs.

    The need for a recharge every 60 miles or so is not a big problem in this case, with comparitively cheap trainsets , but higher speed intercity stock that need hgh utilisation to defray very high first cost may not suit this approach.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    One of the really innovative and exciting things happening on the Railways. Presuming the technical issues are now sorted, I would be interested to know what the costs are going to be. Is this going to be a very cheap way to provide 'new' trains, and what are the running costs going to be ? Obviously they score heavily by not having investment in overhead or 3rd Rail infrastructure but what are the running costs ? If they are cheaper than supplying Electricity or Diesel Fuel through conventional means, then we will be definitely looking at the Future.