Caltrain to pilot the first US electric-battery powered train

Caltrain leaders have announced that the transit agency has received money to purchase and pilot a bi-level dual electric and battery-powered train, the country’s first.

The California Transportation Commission approved a funding allocation for one Stadler battery-equipped electric train and related maintenance and charging facility upgrades to help with the transition to fully electrified service and expand zero emission service to non-electrified tracks. Stadler is Caltrain’s electric train manufacturer.

The commission approved the allocation of funds from an $80 million award from the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) for one battery-equipped electric multiple unit train, or BEMU train, and the associated research and development.

The funds will allow Caltrain to operate zero-emission trains on both electrified service areas of the corridor as well as the portion of the corridor from Tamien Station in San Jose to Gilroy, which, at present, does not yet have overhead electrified lines.

As a battery-equipped train, the Stadler will charge while the train runs on overhead power in the electrified service areas and then use battery charge to travel “off-wire” on non-electrified track areas.Without this BEMU train, Caltrain would have to use diesel trains in the non-electrified corridor.

The funding award from CalSTA also covers the cost of testing at the Transportation Test Center in Colorado and upgrades to the San Jose Central Maintenance Facility and Gilroy layover and station area to facilitate charging and maintenance.

After additional testing and certifications from regulatory agencies, the train will go into operations. The 4-car vehicle consists of three passenger cars and one battery-head, which houses the battery and power equipment.

“Silicon Valley has a reputation for first of its kind innovations, and our transportation sector is no different,” San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said. “This project will pave the way for Caltrain to retire their diesel fleet and operate a fully zero-emission service for future generations.”

Carl Guardino, vice chairperson of the commission, called the unanimous decision “electrifying both figuratively and literally. It will improve the lives for tens of thousands of daily commuters and show the way for other transit systems throughout the country,” he said.

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