April 29, 2021

LIRR Studying Bi-mode Battery-Electric Trains

The Long Island Rail Road has entered into a $860,000 agreement with train manufacturer Alstom (which has facilities in Hornell, Plattsburgh, and Rochester) for a feasibility study on operating battery-electric multiple units (BEMUs) throughout its system to replace diesel traction over the non-electrified segments of its system.

The plan is to retrofit the railroad’s existing M7 EMU cars with batteries as opposed to ordering new trainsets. The trains would run off the existing DC third rail in electrified territory and then seamlessly switch to batteries in the current non-electrified diesel territory. Charging stations located at the end of branches would re-energize train batteries between runs, the lithium-ion batteries taking about 10 minutes to charge.

“This changes the dynamics for how we look at our capital program needs in the future," LIRR president Phillip Eng stated in an exclusive interview with Newsday. "This is an opportunity to really look at a technology that could address this in a manner that is achievable, fundable, and the cleanest form of service that we can think of.”

The LIRR stated that such trainsets would negate the need to further electrify the railroad's tracks, however given the 50-mile (80km) range of Alstom’s existing Coradia Polyvalent BEMU trainsets, this seems unlikely for the Ronkonkoma and Montauk branches due there long unelectrified segments of 46 and 79 miles. However, both the Oyster Bay and Port Jefferson branches fall well in the range of battery operation.

The yearlong study is being funded out of the LIRR's operating budget and will include simulations of battery-powered train. If determined to be feasible, the next step would be for a pair of M7 electric cars to be equipped with batteries and the tested on a non-electrified branch, likely the Oyster Bay line, which would be fitted with a battery charging station at its terminal.

If successful, then the LIRR would convert the rest of the M7 vehicle fleet while incorporating batteries in all new rollingstock ordered. Overall, this is likely the first step being taken by a railroad in New York State that fulfills the goals of the Climate and Community Investment Act of moving to a zero-emission transport system.

LIRR PRESS RELEASE: LIRR to Test Electric Railcars on Oyster Bay Branch


SOURCE: MTA LIRR via Wikipedia