Battery bi-mode trains offer cost and environmental savings

Battery bi-mode trains could save Britain’s railways £3.5bn and 12 million tonnes of CO2 over 35 years, Siemens Mobility claims.

Siemens’ Desiro Verve with RCC
Siemens’ Desiro Verve with RCC - Siemens Mobility

The new trains would be powered by overhead wires on electrified routes and switch to batteries on unelectrified sections. 

Consequently, small sections of the routes and/or particular stations would need to be electrified with overhead line equipment (OLE), making it quicker to replace diesel trains compared to full electrification.  

Siemens Mobility further claims that OLE can be installed more quickly using its Rail Charging Converter (RCC).

In a statement, Sambit Banerjee, joint CEO for Siemens Mobility UK & Ireland said: “Britain should never have to buy a diesel passenger train again. Our battery trains, which we’d assemble in our new Goole factory in Yorkshire, can replace Britain’s aging diesel trains without us having to electrify hundreds of miles more track in the next few years. So, on routes from Perth to Penzance, passengers could be travelling on clean, green battery-electric trains by the early 2030s.”

Several train operators are looking to replace their aging diesel fleets, including Chiltern, Great Western Railway (GWR), Northern, ScotRail, TransPennine Express (TPE) and Transport for Wales (TfW), whilst East-West Rail will need to secure new trains.

Siemens Mobility said it has conducted extensive modelling using advanced train performance simulation software to compare using battery bi-mode trains to running diesel or part-diesel powered trains.

It shows that Siemens Mobility’s battery bi-mode trains would require 20 – 30 per cent of a line to be electrified. These trains, utilising lithium titanate oxide battery chemistry, can charge their batteries to full capacity in 20 minutes whilst moving along the electrified sections or charging whilst stopped at stations.

Siemens Mobility has reviewed routes across the country and identified strategic points along these routes where discontinuous electrification OLE could be installed, powered by Siemens Mobility’s RCCs, enabling the batteries to be charged.  

According to Siemens Mobility, RCCs can be installed in 18 months alongside the OLE, connecting to the local power grid using an 11kV charge instead of using the 275/400kV electricity network, connections to which can take up to seven years to install on traditional electrification projects.

Taking this approach across routes used by Chiltern, GWR, Northern, ScotRail, TPE, TfW and East-West Rail would save Britain’s railways £3.5bn over 35 years compared with using proposed diesel-battery-electric ‘tri-mode’ trains. It would also support the government’s aim of removing diesel-only trains from Britain’s railways by 2040. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 12 million tonnes over that period.

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