The auto industry is under the gun to produce zero-emissions cars, taking the route of either hydrogen, hybrid, or electric vehicles. Locomotive builders are also going green though, and in Britain the first battery-powered train is ready to begin trials, reports Rail Journal.
These trials are important, as the London to Stansted Airport line is undergoing a ten-year main line electrification scheme to help displace the diesel locomotives. A Class 379 locomotive was loaded with six battery “rafts” to enable it to run along unelectrified strips on branch services that aren’t part of the electrification scheme (at least not yet).
There have long been electric-powered subways and trolley cars, and diesel-electric trains are becoming more commonplace. But this is one of the first battery-powered locomotive in the modern era, where batteries alone will power the locomotive limited distances, separate from an electrified rail. It gives the trains a lot more versatility as to where they can go and a lot more leeway during construction, when some sections may be electrified but others aren’t quite there yet.
Officially called the Independently-Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU), each of the six battery rafts each comprise of batteries, an isolation switch, a power distribution panel, a charging inverter, and a battery mounting system. The batteries are of the lithium iron magnesium phosphate variety for now, though other battery chemistries will be tested over the course of the next five years.
Maybe one day, trains won’t even need that third rail at all.