AGC battery conversion (Photo SNCF) (1)

FRANCE: SNCF Voyageurs and Alstom have unveiled a prototype conversion of an AGC multiple-unit from electro-diesel to battery-electric power as part of a plan to decarbonise the French regional train fleet.

Five of the Bombardier Transportation-built electro-diesel multiple-units are due to be converted as part of a project launched in October 2021. SNCF is providing €6m of funding, with €5·5m coming from Alstom and €5·7m from each of the régions of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Occitanie, Hauts-de-France, Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur and Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

The conversion of the first unit from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine région was undertaken at Alstom’s Crespin plant; the diesel engines were replaced by eight lithium-ion batteries supplied by Leclanché, providing a total of 800 kW. The modified unit is currently undergoing trials at the CEF 2 test centre in Nancois-Tronville.

AGC battery conversion (Photo SNCF) (1)

The BEMU has a range of 80 km on battery power with a maximum speed of 160 km/h, depending on gradient and other line characteristics. The batteries are recharged when the train is running under overhead electrification or by using a fixed charging point at stations.

The final phase of testing on the French national network is scheduled for December 2023 and January 2024, and authorisation for passenger service is expected by December 2024. Once the experimental programme has been complete and performance and operating cost data obtained, the five régions will decide whether to convert further electro-diesel or diesel multiple-units from the 326-strong AGC fleet.

The units are up to 20 years old, and the conversion project is intended to give then further 20 years of operational life.

‘Decarbonising mobility is at the heart of Alstom’s strategy, and the battery train completes our range of relevant solutions, along with hydrogen and hybridisation, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from mobility’, said President of Alstom France Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud when the first unit was displayed in Clermont-Ferrand on October 18.