The Anonymous Widower

Where Are All The Battery-Electric Trains?

Consider these dates and notes

February 10th, 2015

, I wrote Is The Battery Electric Multiple Unit (BEMU) A Big Innovation In Train Design?, after an excellent first ride in Bombadier’s experimental battery-electric multiple unit or BEMU based on a Class 379 train.

October 10th, 2018

I wrote Battery Class 230 Train Demonstration At Bo’ness And Kinneil Railway, after a ride on Vivarail’s Class 230 train in Scotland.

October 15th, 2018

This article on Railway Gazette, which was entitled BatteryFLEX Desiro EMU Conversion Proposed, announced Porterbrook’s plan to convert their Class 350/2 trains to battery-electric operation.

September 30th, 2019

I wrote Battery Electrostars And The Uckfield Branch.

I indicated that according to Modern Railways, battery Electrostars were on their way to replace Class 171 trains, that need to be cascaded to East Midlands Railway by September 2021.

February 28th, 2020

I wrote Northern’s Battery Plans.

This described a plan by Northern Trains and CAF to convert three-car Class 331 trains into four-car battery electric trains, by adding a battery car.

July 6th, 2020

I wrote Hyperdrive Innovation And Hitachi Rail To Develop Battery Tech For Trains, which announced Hitachi’s Regional Battery Train, which is shown in this Hitachi infographic.

Hitachi are now testing Class 803 trains, which have batteries, but only for hotel purposes and not traction.

Although, I do suspect that the batteries in Class 803 trains will be very similar to those in other Hitachi trains.

It’s just not good engineering to do the same job twice and all Hitachi trains are members of the same A-train family.

August 12, 2020

In Converting Class 456 Trains Into Two-Car Battery Electric Trains, I mused on some remarks made by Mark Hopwood, who then was the interim Managing Director of South Western Railway.

December 15th, 2020

Hitachi released a press release which was entitled Hitachi And Eversholt Rail To Develop GWR Intercity Battery Hybrid Train – Offering Fuel Savings Of More Than 20%.

This is the Hitachi Intercity Tri-Mode Battery Train, which is described in this Hitachi infographic.

Details given in the press release include.

  • A five-car train will be used as the prototype.
  • The objective is fuel savings of 20 %.
  • Battery power will be used in stations.

I have read elsewhere that testing will start in 2022, with trains entering service a year later.

In addition, I have written many posts on this blog about the possible deployment of battery-electric trains.

There are certainly a lot of ideas and aspirations for the development and use of battery trains, but except for the Class 803 trains, which only use batteries for emergency hotel power and are now under test, no battery-electric trains have been seen on the UK rail network.

I have a few thoughts.

Existing Trains That Could Be Converted To Battery-Electric Trains

The following trains would appear to be candidates for conversion to battery-electric operation for passenger operations.

  • Class 350 trains – 87 trains of four cars – 110 mph – Will be replaced by Class 730 trains.
  • Class 360 trains – 21 trains of four cars – 110 mph – In service with East Midlands Railway between St. Pancras and Corby, but with batteries could extend the route to Oakham and Melton Mowbray.
  • Class 379 trains – 30 trains of four cars – 100 mph – Have been replaced by Class 745 trains and now filling in for late delivery of new Class 720 trains.
  • Class 385 trains – 24 trains of four cars – 100 mph – In service with Scotrail and could be upgraded to Regional Battery Trains.
  • Class 385 trains – 46 trains of three cars – 100 mph – In service with Scotrail and could be upgraded to Regional Battery Trains.
  • Class 387 trains – 107 trains of four cars – 110 mph – Some are being replaced with new trains and it appears that some may be available for conversion. There must also be question marks over Heathrow and Gatwick Express services.


  1. All trains have an operating speed of 100 or 110 mph.
  2. I suspect most of the 100 mph trains could be upgraded to 110 mph trains.
  3. There is a total of nearly three hundred four-car trains.

In addition, there are other trains like Class 377 trains, Class 444 trains, Class 450 trains and Class 707 trains. that could be converted to battery-electric operation should it be necessary or the trains were withdrawn from service due to being replaced with new trains.

We could have access to over five hundred battery-electric trains, if all were to be converted.

Does that mean that until fleets start to wear out, we will not need to buy any new electric multiple units for the standard gauge UK rail network?

A Comparison Between A Hitachi Regional Battery Train And An Existing Electric Multiple Unit With Added Batteries

If you compare an Hitachi Regional Battery train based on a four-car Class 385 train with a four-car Class 350 train you get the following with Hitachi figures first.

  • Cars – 4 – 4
  • Operating Speed – 100 mph – 110 mph
  • Seats – 273 – 270
  • Length – 92 metres – 82 metres
  • Dual-voltage – Probably possible – Yes

The two trains could share a route and few passengers would complain or even notice the difference.

Will Battery-Electric Trains Have Collateral Benefits?

All these trains, that are available to conversion to battery-electric trains are modern 100 mph four-car units that meet all the regulations.

They will offer a better standard of service than say a Class 156 diesel train, but most importantly, their size will mean that most services in the UK would be run by a four-car train, which would help to ease overcrowding in a lot of places.

Where Are The Battery Electric Trains?

Could it be that someone has added up the number of trains we already have and has decided that with decarbonisation to the fore, that by using a mix of battery-electric trains and discontinuous electrification, we can create a unified electric train network in England, Scotland and Wales, without ordering large fleets of new trains.

The specification for the UK’s standard battery-electric local train may need to emerge first, but I suspect that train manufacturers and upgraders like Wabtec, want to make sure they create a battery-electric train to these standards.

  • Very reliable.
  • A range as long as feasibly possible.
  • Long-lasting

So with this technology change from pure-electric, bi-mode and diesel trains to pure-electric and battery-electric, is everybody making sure, that it ends up as a success, rather than a disaster?

Over the last few years, there have been a lot of late train deliveries for various reasons and releasing battery-electric trains too early might not be prudent.







August 18, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , ,


  1. Theres no will or leadership in the dept of transport to just get on with this just interested in jam tomorrow headline grabbing projects. In all likelihood it will be MerseyRail who have bought the 777 trains themselves who have committed to fitting 7 units with batteries to extend the service to Headbolt Lane as well as having a vision about how many other extensions are on there radar.. So after a succesful trial they just got on with it.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 18, 2021 | Reply

    • The classic example of this is the two routes in the far South East to Uckfield and on the Marshlink Line.

      Battery trains are urgently needed for these two lines, so that the diesels can go to East Midlands Railway.

      I wonder why, there has been no news of converting some Electrostars for this route, except rumours in Modern Railways in September 2019.

      As it just replacing diesel trains with battery electric ones, that run between electrified sections of line, I don’t think there’s much of an infrastructure problem.

      Is this down to Alstom and the Bombardier takeover or the Department of Transport?

      Who knows?

      Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021 | Reply

      • The non AC versions of the electrostars could accommodate a few tonnes of batteries but will need recharge facilities at Crowborough and Uckfield. I would advocate a limited extension of the third rail to Edenbridge Town which could easily be fed off Tonbridge Redhill line to keep costs down.
        Marshlink should have been covered by using bimode Azumas down HS1 although whether there are issues with conveyance of diesel through its tunnels im not sure.
        In reality nothing will happen this year but by year end RSSB will have concluded the safety case for extending third rail and if favourable NR can make the case to ORR. Should be doable for Dec 24 timetable change

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 18, 2021

  2. The Office of Road and Rail will never allow third rail.

    This was my latest take on services to Uckfield.

    Using Hitachi ABB Power Grids Technology At Uckfield Station

    The Marshlink Line has electrification at both ends, so is easier.

    Govia has enough Class 387 trains for both routes.

    There something funny behind all this, as operationally it would surely be better for Southern to be an electric-only fleet all based at an electric-only Selhurst Depot.

    Perhaps the RMT are against battery-electric trains? Now that would be a surprise!

    Comment by AnonW | August 18, 2021 | Reply

    • ORR has thrown down the gauntlet and RSSB have a research project running “21st Century DC electrification infill (T1214)” forecast to report end of the year which will establish whether a safety case can be built to allow extensions. I spent a career electrifying the Southern in the 80/90’s but I would only promote Uckfield and North Downs Lines for DC the rest need to be 25kv now although some use of BiModes can gain some benefits until battery density gets better.

      Comment by Nicholas Lewis | August 20, 2021 | Reply

      • I feel that Uckfield is the easy one.

        The third rail to charge a battery train would be in Uckfield station, where there probably wouldn’t be any supply problem.

        Or the Hitachi solution of a short length of overhead wire could be erected. But that would need dual-voltage trains.

        As you say though, you could fairly easily electrify all of it.

        But I prefer the battery train option for two reasons.

        The Marshlink line will probably need battery trains, as they would need no special charging unlike Uckfield.

        According to passengers I met who used the Harwich experiment, battery trains attract passengers.

        Comment by AnonW | August 21, 2021

  3. Looks like the first to be used will be the Class 777s on Merseyrail. The Liverpool City Region metro-mayor is pushing them for reaching Merseyrail into the all the City Region.

    Comment by John | August 20, 2021 | Reply

Leave a Reply to AnonW Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: