Testing of pioneering battery technology developed at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe plant has begun today (Friday, May 23), it has been revealed.

The first-ever trial in the UK to replace a diesel engine with a battery on an intercity train is being trialled on TransPennine Trains.

Hitachi Rail has built a battery using the North East supply chain, with one battery unit predicted to reduce emissions and fuel costs by as much as 30%.

The exciting development comes as concerns remain over Hitachi’s failure to reach an agreement with the Government to keep their order books full.The Northern Echo: Brand new battery technology developed at Hitachi to be trialled on TransPennine train

The factory keeps 750 people in work on-site, alongside another 1,400 jobs indirectly and The Northern Echo is maintaining its campaign to ensure the future of the plant.

Talks continue between Hitachi's UK leadership and civil servants to look at options to maintain production throughout a critical contract gap.

Hitachi sees the battery as part of the Aycliffe plant's long-term future.

The battery, which generates a peak power of more than 700kw, has now been successfully retrofitted onto a TransPennine Express ‘Nova 1’ train (five-carriage intercity Class 802), ahead of the trial on Transpennine routes this summer.The Northern Echo: Brand new battery technology developed at Hitachi to be trialled on TransPennine train

This is the first UK trial where a diesel engine is replaced with a battery on an intercity train. The trial is a collaboration between TransPennine Express, Angel Trains and Hitachi Rail.

The single battery unit is described as incredibly powerful, storing enough electricity to power more than 75 houses for a day.

This impressive energy and power density will deliver the same levels of high-speed acceleration and performance while being no heavier than the diesel engine it replaces.

The installation of a battery will reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency. It is predicted to reduce emissions and fuel costs by as much as 30% on a Hitachi intercity train.

Most importantly for passengers, the trial will test how intercity trains can enter, alight and leave non-electrified stations in zero-emission battery mode to improve air quality and reduce noise pollution.The Northern Echo: Brand new battery technology developed at Hitachi to be trialled on TransPennine train

The battery has been manufactured with Turntide Technologies in Sunderland, using the battery sector that has developed in the North East.

Hitachi say the trial will provide “real-world evidence” to inform the business case for a 100% -battery-electric intercity train, capable of running up to 100km in battery mode.

This remarkable range means this battery technology could be deployed to cover the final non-electrified sections of intercity routes in the coming years.

It will also demonstrate how battery technology can reduce infrastructure costs by reducing the need for overhead wires in tunnel sections and over complex junctions.

Angel Trains, the owner of the Class 802 units, sees this investment in the Hitachi Rail product as extremely important, with the benefits extending to the North East and the broader rail industry.

This type of private sector investment in leading-edge technology is critical to the success of UK rail.The Northern Echo: Brand new battery technology developed at Hitachi to be trialled on TransPennine train

The trial, and the industrial opportunity presented by battery trains, means rail can help grow the domestic battery sector.

Paul Staples, Engineering, Safety and Sustainability Director at TransPennine Express, said: “We’re really pleased to be a part of this innovative and critically important trial of battery technology.

“We take our environmental responsibilities seriously and are constantly looking at ways of making rail travel even more sustainable and efficient.

“This trial will allow us to assess the exciting new technology on our Nova 1 train; we’re looking forward to seeing the results and how well the batteries work on our network.”The Northern Echo: Brand new battery technology developed at Hitachi to be trialled on TransPennine train

Matthew Prosser, Asset Management Director at Angel Trains, said: “This project represents a significant investment in one of our newest fleets.

"It will both support and draw upon the skilled jobs and expertise at Hitachi’s Newton Aycliffe facility and enable us to demonstrate how battery retrofit technology can help us decarbonise our railways.”

Jim Brewin, Chief Director UK & Ireland at Hitachi Rail, said: “Hitachi has invested more than £15 million in research and development to deliver a ‘UK first’ in battery train technology.

"Collaborating closely with our partners, Angel Trains and TransPennine Express, we are committed to showcasing how the rail industry can significantly lower costs and emissions. This is an important next step towards a more energy efficient and greener railway.”

The development of the battery is an "excellent example of Japan-UK engineering alliance".

Once assembled, the battery pack was shipped from the UK to Japan, where it underwent robust testing by Hitachi’s battery train experts who previously delivered the world’s first passenger battery train in 2016.

The successful completion of testing in Japan, paved the way for the UK rail industry collaboration, with Angel Trains, TransPennine Express and Hitachi Rail combining forces to help decarbonise and modernise the railways.

Mark Cox, General Manager of Turntide Technologies transport business unit said: "We are incredibly proud to be part of this ground-breaking project, co-developing one of the world's most powerful passenger train batteries with our esteemed partners at Hitachi Rail.

"The successful development and production of this high-performance battery at our Sunderland facility further highlights the key role we play in the UK’s industrial landscape. We believe this clean technology will revolutionise the rail industry, not only in the UK but around the globe.”

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This important project draws upon Hitachi’s global expertise which includes delivering the world’s first passenger battery train in Japan, and rolling out the Masaccio, Europe’s first battery hybrid train in Italy in 2022.

The evolution of the technology continues at pace with Hitachi Rail recently unveiling its new intercity version of the train, and with a target to roll out a EuroMasaccio in additional European markets, including Germany from 2026.

The development of this battery is an important step for the rail industry both home and abroad. Hitachi Rail has an ambition to install this battery on trains around the world, potentially creating a UK export and improving energy efficiency.

There are thousands of trains running across the world that are powered by diesel engines, which will need to be decarbonised to meet net zero targets. In Italy, the Masaccio has instantly cut CO2 emissions by 50% compared to the diesel trains it has replaced. The ability to replace diesel engines with a powerful battery, and unlock cheaper partial electrification, can create a low-cost pathway to decarbonise railways around the world.