Stadler first to bring a battery-electric train to the US

Swiss trainmaker Stadler will bring the first battery-electric train to the USA. The company announces signing a development contract with Utah State University (USU) and the ASPIRE Engineering Research Center. Tests will be based on the ‘Flirt Akku’ train model.

“Akku” is short for rechargeable battery in German, and the Stadler Flirt Akku train is a passenger trainset with power packs mounted on the roof. The traction batteries can charge during operation if there are overhead lines and otherwise at selected sites. ABB has delivered the energy storage system since 2021 and it can be charged with a 400V or 1,000V at the depot. In purely battery-powered driving mode, the maximum speed is 140 km/h, with an operating range of 100 kilometres or 62 miles.

Stadler introduced the concept in October 2018 as a design for non-electrified or partially electrified lines. 110 Flirt Akku trains have since been in operation with various rail companies, mostly in Germany.

However, the new US project is a first, and Stadler and USU and ASPIRE aim to develop, build and test a Flirt Akku model tailored to the American market. “This requires extensive research and development work,” says Stadler, to adapt the vehicle to the US infrastructure and national regulations.

The historically pioneering railway of the United States has been in decay for many decades. Moreover, there has been almost no upgrade, so most rail lines remain unelectrified.

“With little to no electrified routes in the North American public rail transit system, a battery train is a great zero-emission alternative to diesel-powered vehicles,” explains Martin
Ritter, CEO of Stadler US.

While Stadler is concentrating on the design and production of the train, ASPIRE is working on developing the trackside charging infrastructure for the vehicle, so the statement.

“We are honoured to partner with Stadler on this groundbreaking project,” added Dr Regan Zane, Director of the NSF ASPIRE Engineering Research Center. The institute hopes to “chart the path to electrified commuter and light rail systems along the Wasatch Front,” Zane said. The Wasatch Front is a metropolitan region stretched along the Wasatch mountain range in Utah. It includes cities and towns such as Salt Lake City, Bountiful, Layton, and Ogden.

During subsequent extensive test runs, ASPIRE, USU and Stadler hope to gain important insights for the decarbonisation of American passenger transport through the use of battery-powered trains.

For Stadler, the project is the second electrified train coming to the United States. The company recently received a contract for a hydrogen-powered Flirt H2 train for California, where the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) ordered the train to arrive in 2024. The fuel cells come from Ballard Power Systems.


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