Porterbrook makes case for battery/electric bi-mode conversion


Rolling stock leasing company Porterbrook is working on a prototype battery/electric bi-mode Class 350/2 to demonstrate the technology’s viability to train operators.

Porterbrook, which owns West Midlands Trains’ entire fleet of Class 350/2s, made the announcement having completed an engineering assessment which makes a compelling case for converting the trains.

Engineers at Porterbrook have run models on a variety of routes, including the Windermere branch line and the West Coast main line, and believe a battery/electric bi-mode, known as a 350/2 Battery/FLEX, could offer various performance benefits.

Following the decision not to electrify the Lakes line last year, the government said it wanted to see ‘alternative-fuel’ trains on the route. Northern subsequently announced its intentions to operate Portberbrook’s Class 769 Flex diesel bi-modes.

Porterbrook said it was now speaking to specialists in battery chemistry to develop a demonstrator unit.

Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook, said: “Porterbrook has an unrivalled reputation for innovation. The addition of the BatteryFLEX to our rolling stock portfolio will help train operators further reduce their carbon footprint and emissions, whilst maintaining performance and delivery.

“We believe this green technology could have a huge impact across the country, delivering cleaner travel on our rail network, including on picturesque routes like the Lakes Line.”

Read more: SNCF trial to tackle brake dust emissions


  1. I think it could be a brilliant idea to convert the Class 350/2 EMUs to IPEMU Class 350 Battery-Electric Multiple Unit so that it can operate in Wales, England and possibly in Scotland. Such as using them on the Crosscountry routes and possibly on the Midland Main Line and other major railway lines that might be suitable for them. Plus Bombardier did a trial back in 2015 by using one of their Class 379 Electrostar unit that they teamed up with Greater Anglia and the Class 379 IPEMU (379013) did do a passenger run between Manningtree and Harwich Town in Essex that was working on usual 25kv Overhead and Battery power for about a year. Which I think Class 379 could become Battery powered as well usual AC 25kv Overhead.

  2. These trains should also be uprated to 110 mph, as the Class 350/1 trains have already been.

    I suspect, it would be easy to give these trains a forty mile range on batteries, which would mean that if there was a charging station at Hull, the trains could go from Liverpool to Hull hopping from one island of electrification to another.

    The big problem across the North is not the lack of electrification, but the slow speed limits on much of the route. If these limits were increased to 125 mph, then these 110 mph trains could run the stoppers.

    I also think that adding batteries to these trains would enable the trains to hanbdle their own regenerative braking energy at all times, which would make them efficient.

    If Porterbrook’s project is successful, then expect to see all the other Class 350 trains uprated and possibly the same could happen to the third-rail Class 450 trains. Could these stetch from Basingstoke to Salisbury and Exeter with perhaps some more electrification and a charging station at the terminus.

    This is a very important announcement from Porterbrook.


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