What is the challenge?
The UK rail industry needs vehicles which are lighter, more energy efficient and cheaper to purchase and operate. Meanwhile, rural and suburban communities around the country are eager for more efficient, better connected public transport services for their local areas.
What is the solution?
The emerging Very Light Rail (VLR) sector seeks to address this, by harnessing technology from the automotive sector to create hybrid or all-electric self-propelled rail vehicles which are lightweight, energy efficient, cheap to manufacture & operate and geared to the needs of communities.
In 2014, HVM Catapult centre WMG joined a consortium to design and deliver a self-propelled, lightweight, diesel-electric hybrid DMU rail vehicle. The consortium, led by Transport Design International Ltd, also includes a range of partners from the automotive and rail sectors.
The finished ‘Revolution’ Very Light vehicle will be a bi-directional, 18m long railcar, with seating for 60 passengers and standing room for a further 60 (120 total). It will use lightweight materials and a modular structure to achieve a tare weight of one tonne per linear metre.
The vehicle will be self-propelled, achieving full-electric launch from stations, regenerative braking and optimised hybrid propulsion without the need for costly electrical infrastructure. Importantly, the supply chain for the vehicle’s integration and assembly will be largely based in the UK.
What is the impact?
Phase 1 of the project was completed in August 2016 – this delivered a detailed design for a self-propelled hybrid rail bogie, and concept design for the rail car.
The DfT has now awarded £2.75m to the consortium for Phase 2, where a full-scale demonstrator vehicle will be constructed, and trialled at a test facility. Phase 2 is due to commence in October 2017 and will complete in 2019.
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