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Solutions to decarbonisation are being sought across all modes of transport. While huge progress has been made in the automotive sector, rail has its own unique challenges and opportunities.

As such, collaborative thinking and in-depth knowledge of existing technology and infrastructure is essential.

A collaborative approach

With this in mind, we have joined forces with Hitachi ABB Power Grids to present a combined battery train and charging solution.  This partnership brings together expertise in rail, power and grid management to create a battery train solution that seamlessly integrates with existing rail electrification infrastructure.

Our solution is relatively simple - the introduction of a short stretch of overhead wires which charges battery trains, via a pantograph, while it’s on the move.  The technology has been proven via Hitachi ABB Power Grids experience of fast charging bus fleets across Europe, and now simply needs adapting for rail use.

This gives our rail customers flexibility. Being able to deliver high levels of performance, under the wires or powered solely by batteries, means our trains can be introduced while electrification upgrades are taking place - eliminating passenger disruption during construction work.

Once upgrades are complete, you can remove the batteries leaving customer’s with a regular electric train.

This flexibility also allows governments and system operators to ask whether it’s necessary to electrify the entire route. The ability to change automatically from battery to electric can negate the installation of wires on expensive or tricky parts of electrification, like bridges and tunnels. This can reduce upfront infrastructure costs and deliver lifetime efficiencies on trackside maintenance. It can also help improve the business case for electrification in areas where rail investment is lower than average, like rural areas, while simultaneously improve connectivity and offer unbroken rail travel.

Future- proofed solutions

The ability to future-proof and buy for the longer term reduces financial risks should the rail industries priorities shift in the future. Battery technology is not a blocker to electrification. In fact, Hitachi is making electrification simpler, cheaper and quicker.

Our innovative thinking, combined with expertise in both rail and energy has the potential to unlock zero emission transport across the rail network, with little compromise or change for the passenger.

About the author

Lorna Mcdonald

Lorna McDonald

Head of Sales – Commuter