Hybrid train technology lab opens in Birmingham

A 'world-leading' laboratory for testing hybrid train technology is now up and running in Birmingham.

The £600,000 Energy Systems Integration Laboratory (ESIL) at the University of Birmingham, which incorporates a machine rig and dynamometer (£300,000) and a power cycler (£150,000), will test hybrid drive-trains and evaluate the performance of electric storage devices.

The Department for Transport has been working with the Universities of Birmingham and Warwick in developing concept designs for diesel hybrid rail vehicles. The new laboratory will enhance this work, though its facilities will also be available for testing hybrid electric drive systems for other applications, including heavy goods vehicles and industrial equipment. ESIL Research is headed jointly by Dr Stuart Hillmansen and Dr Clive Roberts.

Over 50 international rail experts from 14 different countries attended the launch. Speaking at the event, Dr Roberts said: "With the launch of this new laboratory the West Midlands now has one of the most advanced testing facilities for rail technology globally. The facility allows the team here to conduct full simulation and testing on hybrid drive-train systems that could ultimately deliver a step change in the way the UK rail industry addresses its energy needs."

Among the delegates was Koji Agatsuma, project manager at Hitachi Europe. He said: "In Japan the majority of main lines are fully electrified, with only a few rural routes still using diesel trains. The implementation of hybrid systems in the UK could save the rail industry millions of pounds and provide an important step towards full electrification."

Jean-Paul Moskowitz, energy management programme manager for Alstom, added: "Collaborations between universities and industry can be extremely beneficial for both organisations. The simulation and testing facilities at this site provide train companies with an invaluable research and development tool that will, in time, yield significant commercial benefits for the industry."

The equipment at ESIL will enable hybrid electric traction systems to be configured and designed for railway applications. It will also include the capability to integrate energy storage devices into traction systems, and to develop the control and optimisation of these systems.

The laboratory is part of the £10.5m Energy Efficiency & Demand project, funded by Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The region's rail sector comprises over 350 companies employing around 30,000 people.

Current projects at ESIL include characterisation of railway vehicle duty cycles for hybrid drivetrains, performance characterisation of DC/DC power converters and high-resolution data capture of railway power network and vehicle characteristics.

www.esil.bham.ac.uk

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