Although the new, faster, cheaper batteries may still be 2 to 3 years away, battery technology already is replacing diesel in many transport markets including trains.
Railway operators in rural Japan are replacing diesel-guzzling trains with new battery-powered rolling stock, taking advantage of the low-maintenance, environmentally friendly modern technology to cut costs and emissions.
East Japan Railway Co. began using battery-powered trains on the Oga Line in Akita Prefecture in March, following a similar change on the non-electrified Karasuyama Line in Tochigi Prefecture. Kyushu Railway Co. has also been using battery-powered trains on a non-electrified section of the Chikuho Line in Fukuoka Prefecture.
Battery-powered trains reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent compared to diesel engine trains and require lower operational costs because they have no transmissions or engines which are made up of many moving parts and require constant upkeep.
A high school girl who uses the line in Akita for commuting said the battery-powered trains are “cleaner and quieter” than diesel oil-fueled trains. Riding on them is “more enjoyable,” she added.
Locals are hoping that the positive image of battery-powered trains will also attract more tourists to the region.
Of the Japan Railway group lines that stretch around 20,000 km (over 12,000 miles) across the country, 40 percent are not electrified, meaning that on those sections, diesel- or battery-powered rolling stock are required.
Battery-powered trains have their limits, however.
Given the current capacity of their batteries, they can transport passengers only up to around 25 km on one charge. To run further, they need special charging stations.Although the introduction of battery-powered trains costs less than electrifying a railway line, the length of each line is a consideration when deciding if the trains are suitable, said Masashi Tonosaki, an East Japan Railway official.
i am sure when the new battery technologies come through and on the fly charging options become available we will see more of these trains emerging.
An earlier battery powered train (just for fun)
Back in 2015 Panasonic Corporation has secured its most impressive Guinness World Records title to date, setting an all-new record for the Longest distance travelled by a vehicle on a railway track powered by dry cell batteries, completing an impressive 22.615 km (14.05 miles) journey on Yurikougen Railway Chokaisanroku Line, in Akita, Japan.
Battery Powered Trains in Wales?
The UK Government is refusing to guarantee it will give Wales a promised £125m contribution for electrifying the Valley Lines if alternative technology is chosen. A Welsh Government transport official has confirmed that it is looking at cheaper alternatives to electrification which could involve battery-powered trains.
Battery trains have been trialled in parts of the UK as replacements for expensive, heavy diesel trains. Called an Independently Powered Electric Multiple-Unit (IPEMU), the trains are powered by lithium iron magnesium phosphate batteries.
However there are concerns that the UK Government might not provide the £125m it promised in 2015 for electrification if an alternative technology is chosen. The costs and timescales of railway electrification have risen dramatically since 2014 when David Cameron made the pledge.
This has led to the Welsh Government using “competitive dialogue” to take soundings from European and Asian rail experts on alternatives for the Valley Lines – potentially including new technology such as battery rolling stock.