Currently, a trial run in the United Kingdom is seeing a battery power train charter passengers on a weekday service run  between Harwich International and Manningtree stations in Essex.

The train, a modified Class 379 Electrostar, or  IPEMU (Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit) is the first battery powered train to run in the UK in over 50 years.  The standard Class 379 Electrostar runs via an overhead 25 kV AC system.

Network Rail said that the train will aid in the company's goal of reducing railway costs by 20% over the next 5 years.

“We are always looking for ways to reduce the cost of running the railway and make it greener too. This project has the potential to contribute significantly towards both those goals.”  - Network Rail principal engineer James Ambrose.

The UK company says if the trial runs are met with success, Network Rail could start replacing older diesel engines currently in service elsewhere on the lines.

“After months of engineering and testing, the train is running just as we would like it. We’ll be using this five-week period to gather data on how it handles during passenger service – most travellers will recognise how quiet and smooth the ride is compared to a diesel-powered train.”

Network Rail Battery Train In Operation In January In The UK

Network Rail Battery Train In Operation In January In The UK

Thanks to the onboard batteries, the modified train is capable of running on or off non-electrifies lines, expanding its available coverage.

As powering a train is nothing like a passenger car, just how many batteries are required to make that happen?  Mr. Ambrose says about 80,000 cells, such as is found inside a Tesla Model S from the looks of the video above (18650s), but provided by battery supplier Valence out of Texas (using lithium iron magnesium phosphate battery technology).  If our rough math is correct, that is about 1.1 MWh of capacity.

Total range of the train is not stated by the company at this point, but a testing update (as reported by RTM) updated the hopeful operating parameters:

"... the trial performance targets were: a range of 50km (regional service); an acceleration and speed similar to a DMU; operational cycles of 30km battery and 50km overhead; a lifetime of five to seven years; and a “high level of intrinsic safety”."

Network Rail, Hat tip to offib!