The UK’s Department for Transport, together with railroad operator Network Rail and equipment manufacturer Bombardier, is developing a prototype battery-powered locomotive as part of a study into the feasibility of using battery electric trains on parts of the railway which have not been electrified.
According to Network Rail, electric trains are quicker, quieter, and more efficient than the diesel-powered sort, and a battery-powered train, which could use non-electrified lines, and recharge its batteries at terminal stations, would be a cost-effective way of increasing the electrification of the railway, as it would not require installing miles of wiring.
The project will use a Class 379 locomotive as a test bed to determine future battery requirements. This train will be adapted by Bombardier and fitted with two different forms of batteries: lithium (iron magnesium) phosphate and hot sodium nickel salt. The batteries will undergo many lab tests before being fitted to the train.
The modified train will undergo a variety of tests “off network,” and will then run on an electrified branch line on the Anglia route with its pantograph down, so that if there is a problem, it can raise its pantograph and collect power again. The trial will be complete by the end of 2014.