Siemens Mobility Desiro Verve with RCC (Image Siemens Mobilty)

UK: ‘Britain should never have to buy a diesel passenger train again’, said Sambit Banerjee, Joint CEO of Siemens Mobility UK & Ireland, when the company set out a case for ordering battery-electric trainsets which would use electrification where available and battery power on non-electrified tracks.

The manufacturer’s modelling is predicated on replacing existing diesel trains with its proposed Desiro Verve battery-electric bi-mode multiple-units. This could save £3·5bn and 12 million tonnes of CO2 over 35 years compared with buying diesel-battery-electric tri-mode trains, the company says.

Its lithium titanate oxide battery-electric trains would only require 20% to 30% of a line to be electrified, as they can charge to full capacity in 20 min using partial electrification and electrified islands at stations.

The company’s Rail Charging Converter can connect directly into the 11 kV grid rather than needing the 275/400 kV network. Siemens Mobility says this offers a path to replacing diesel which would be quicker and less disruptive than full overhead electrification, and could cut the time needed for installation from seven years to 18 months.

‘Our battery trains, which we’d assemble in our new Goole factory in Yorkshire, can replace Britain’s ageing diesel trains without us having to electrify hundreds of miles more track’, Banerjee said on June 3. ‘Passengers could be travelling on clean, green battery-electric trains by the early 2030s.’

Siemens Battery Train Infographic

Siemens Mobility’s promotion of battery technology comes at a time when the rail industry is looking at options to replace large numbers of diesel multiple-units dating from the British Rail era which are approaching the end of their lives. While full electrification would usually be an operator’s preferred option, this has a high capital cost, exacerbated by the UK’s restricted clearances.

Siemens Mobility Mireo Plus B battery trains are already in passenger service in Germany, and the company has highlighted ongoing plans to replace diesel trains at Chiltern, Great Western Railway, Northern, ScotRail, TransPennine Express and Transport for Wales Rail, as well as the need to source rolling stock for the East-West Rail project.

The company’s push for battery trains came a few days after Hitachi announced the start of prototype testing with a TransPennine Express Class 802 electro-diesel inter-city trainset which has been retrofitted with a battery in place of one of its three engines.

Meanwhile Stadler has supplied tri-mode electric-diesel-battery trains to Transport for Wales Rail, and some of Merseyrail’s Class 777 EMUs have batteries for use on the short section of non-electrified line to Headbolt Lane station in Kirkby.