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Metra will buy battery-powered trains for use on some lines


Metra is preparing to roll out its first battery-powered trains in the coming years, which could replace diesel-powered locomotives in some places and with fewer passengers.

Metra touts trains as a more economical and environmentally friendly option during off-peak times and believes the trains will be among the first to use this technology in the US

It consists of two interconnected wagons that can carry 112 passengers, with a power unit between the wagons through which passengers can pass. Trains can be controlled from both ends and since they have their own drive systems, there is no need for a separate locomotive.

Produced by Stadler US, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based division of the Swiss train maker, these trains are expected to be delivered in 2027 or 2028.

Metra board members on Wednesday approved the purchase of eight of the two-car trains for $154 million; There are options to spend up to $181.4 million more for eight additional trains, and up to 32 more cars could be added to the trains, which could be expanded to three or four cars long. Each extra car can accommodate approximately 46 people.

Metra plans to test trains on the 26.4-mile branch of the Rock Island line, which runs from the LaSalle Street Station through the Beverly neighborhood to Blue Island.

“This is a densely residential neighborhood,” Metra CEO Jim Derwinski said. “They’ll probably really enjoy the fact that they’re quiet.”

Once tested over multiple seasons, the trains could be expanded to include more cars or used elsewhere where ridership is relatively low, such as evening runs, Derwinski said. Morning commuters on Metra’s busiest lines are unlikely to board battery-powered trains.

“This will never be a vehicle that will carry 1,500 people,” he said.

The purchase will be funded largely by a federal grant, but approximately $30 million in state funds will be used to cover the local match required for the initial purchase.

The new cars will have single-level seating and passengers will be able to walk from car to car through open passages. It’s set up to include bike racks, luggage racks, and USB outlets.

The trains will have elevators to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and half of the cars will have ADA-accessible bathrooms.

Trains are expected to travel 45 to 65 miles on a full charge, and it can take 20 to 30 minutes for a train to charge enough to operate.

Metra said the type and cost of charging infrastructure has not yet been determined.

Stadler produces electric, diesel-electric hybrid and battery-powered trains for European customers, Metra said. Trains similar to those ordered by Metra are currently being built in the United States, but they run on diesel or hydrogen fuel cells.


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