UK: Leasing company Eversholt Rail is to assess the possibility of using Vivarail’s battery traction technology to enable its Class 321 Renatus electric multiple-units to operate on non-electrified lines.
The outer-suburban EMUs built by BREL in 1998-90 were refurbished by Wabtec in 2015-19 under the Renatus (Latin for ‘born again’) programme, but are due to be displaced from use with Greater Anglia by the late-running introduction of new Alstom EMUs.
The Class 321s are relatively simple units and are structurally sound. Their kinematic envelope and EMC performance enables operation almost anywhere on the 25 kV 50 Hz network, and they have a lot of commonality with other classes from the same era.
Leasing company Eversholt said the number, characteristics and availability of the 30 ‘proven and reliable’ Renatus EMUs makes them ‘an excellent fit’ for potential battery operation, while Vivarail’s experience of battery power with its Class 230 units means it is ’well positioned to progress this development’.
Eversholt said the battery technology could offer 30 to 50 km of off-wire power on non-electrified or partly electrified routes, and discussions with operators, regional sponsors and the Department for Transport had identified a number of opportunities.
Meeting changing requirements
Technical and safety case development will continue throughout 2022, along with market engagement to assess the viability of potential routes.
This will inform a decision on further investment in the fleet.
Eversholt previously worked with Alstom on the Breeze concept for equipping surplus Class 321 with hydrogen fuel cells.
Last year Eversholt unveiled the prototype Swift Express Freight EMU, a speculative venture undertaken with Ricardo and Wabtec to convert a Class 321 for parcels traffic, and an agreement for Gemini Rail Services to convert a further four units for freight use was announced in November.
‘We have a proud history of innovation and investing in our fleets to meet changing requirements’, said Paul Sutherland, Client Services Director at Eversholt Rail, on July 14. ’Exploring the viability of integrating battery technology to the Renatus fleet is the natural next step. Battery trains offer an ideal solution for routes with partly and un-electrified lines, enabling the replacement of diesel trains and bringing the air quality and decarbonisation benefits.’