Great Western Railway (GWR) in the UK will conduct the country’s first real-world trial of FastCharge battery technology as part of its goal to phase out diesel-only traction by 2040. 

The technology utilises a 2,400kW charging system that allows battery-only trains to keep up with the quick turnaround requirements of timetable services on branch lines by completing a charge in just three and a half minutes. 

The UK rail operator will trial the system with a Class 230 battery train at West Ealing on its Greenford branch line, building on simulations conducted with some of its branch lines in Thames Valley, after which it was estimated that the tech could reduce the company’s emissions by more than 1,700 tons of CO2 per year. 

Dr Simon Green, GWR’s Engineering Director, said: “This work has never been done before and we’re leading the way to help the Department for Transport and Network Rail understand what is required to roll out this technology on the UK’s rail network. 

“Only now has there been a combination of battery capability and charging technology that enables a branch line train to operate to the same timetable as a diesel unit, and yet still charge safely and with minimal impact on the local grid power supply.” 

GWR had initially signed a deal with Vivarail in February 2022 to trial the battery-charging technology in the UK before buying the company’s IP, rolling stock and equipment relating to FastCharge after it entered administration in December 2022. 

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By GlobalData

Trains using the tech use retractable shoegear, in the form of electrical contact pads, to gain charge from the short charge rails which are fed by two track-side battery banks that are continuously “trickle-charged” from the grid.

Charging rails have already been installed at West Ealing in advance of the trial, which will run in non-passenger service alongside the operator’s scheduled services.