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Transportation

The Train of the Future Might Be Battery-Powered

The U.K. is testing a cleaner, quieter electric rail line that doesn't require power lines.
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Network Rail

This week, the U.K. has been quietly making transit history: it’s just brought the country’s only battery-powered passenger train into service. The train, fitted with lithium phosphate and hot sodium nickel salt batteries, is now undergoing a trial run shuttling passengers on a 12-mile stretch to the northeast of London. You can see a video of it below (spoiler: it looks like a regular train). If it works as it should, it will be able to make its journey without any connection to electrification.

The potential upsides to the wide availability of battery-powered passenger trains could be huge. Not only would trains run more smoothly and quietly, the cost of fitting them with batteries would be far lower than the expensive business of electrifying whole lines with overhead cables. A perfected version of this prototype could slash diesel use and replace it with something potentially much less polluting. What’s already a form of transport with low emissions could become one of the cleanest possible ways of getting from A to B.