Bombardier will convert five of its diesel-hybrid trains to purely electric operation through a combined battery and overhead line operation by 2023. Bombardier was recently acquired by the Alstom group and supplied the hybrid trains it will also now convert for the French railway company SNCF.
A new series of these multiple unit trains of type AGC (Autorail à Grande Capacité) that were first introduced in 2007 can already run on both overhead line and diesel power. These hybrid trains were developed at Bombardier’s Crespin site in France, where the retrofit is now also taking place. Now the trains diesel capacity will be removed and replaced by four battery units each. An onboard charger and an adapted control system will also be installed.
In the future, the five converted trains will be able to draw power from the overhead line as well as cover at least 80 kilometres in pure battery operation. The company says this will enable the trains to perform the same tasks as the diesel-electric hybrid trains. In addition, the manufacturer wants to increase the battery range even further.
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In operation, the battery trains are supposed to score with lower energy consumption. They can store braking energy and use it for subsequent acceleration, which, according to Bombardier, “enables significant energy savings and a 15 per cent increase in peak power”. In addition, the converted trains are said to relieve the strain on the overhead line. “The use of the battery to supplement overhead line power during peak acceleration periods will not only improve the environmental profile of the AGC fleet, but also improve overall operations,” the company’s headquarters said.
With 700 AGC trains, the Autorail à Grande Capacité, introduced in 2004, forms France’s largest regional fleet. Almost half of these are the aforementioned diesel-electric hybrid trains (326 units), which are particularly suitable for conversion. The rest can either run on diesel only or only on overhead lines. The five planned battery trains, which Bombardier calls pre-series, are to be used as demonstrators. The French government and the railway company SNCF have set themselves the goal of phasing out diesel trains by 2035. The project will be realised by 2023 in cooperation with SNCF Voyageurs and the five French regions Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Sud Provence Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Hauts-de-France, Occitanie and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.
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