Photo credit (banner): Maxime Huriez

Leaving diesel behind with battery-powered TERs

In our new battery TERs, we’re replacing diesel engines with lithium batteries—a move that will cut CO₂ emissions and decrease energy consumption by up to 20%. The project is backed by SNCF Group, 5 French regions, and train manufacturer Bombardier.

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Problem: how to eliminate diesel, which still accounts for 61% of CO2 emissions from regional trains running on non-electrified segments of the French network? That’s the challenge facing our Battery TER project, launched by SNCF Voyageurs, Bombardier, and 5 French regions—Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Hauts-de-France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

38 M€

invested in battery-powered TERs by French regions, SNCF Voyageurs and Alstom Transport

Coming to stations by 2023

Solution: replace diesel engines with lithium batteries. We and our partners have invested €38 million1 to convert 5 high-capacity, dual-mode multiple units (powered by catenaries and diesel) into fully electric, dual-mode multiple units (powered by catenaries and batteries).

Conversion of the first trainset began in late 2021 at Alstom Transport’s Crespin facility in Northern France. In 2022, we’ll begin validation testing—the necessary first step towards bringing the new battery TER to market and putting it into service by 2023.

How it works

The lithium batteries will be charged primarily by catenaries and electrified stations, but they’ll also recover and store braking energy. Together, these modifications should cut energy consumption by 20%. And thanks to the batteries, the new TERs will be able to cover 80 km of non-electrified line on their own power.

Where to look for the new trains

One battery-powered TER will run in each of the 5 regions taking part in the trial: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Hauts-de-France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

We expect the new trains to serve regional lines such as:

  • Lyon – Bourg-en-Bresse
  • Alencourt – Beauvais-Creil
  • Bordeaux – Mont de Marsan, Bordeaux – Le Verdon, Bordeaux – Saint Mariens
  • Nîmes – Le Grau du Roi
  • Marseille – Aix

Another step towards decarbonizing regional trains

How are we making TERs greener? How long will the batteries last? Can they be recycled? TER project manager Jérôme Leroy tells us more.

Why did you decide to put batteries in trains?

For several reasons. First, TER wants to decarbonize its fleet, and battery power is one way to do that. As with the hybrid TER, batteries are part of SNCF’s effort to reduce our trains’ carbon footprint by limiting emissions of key pollutants. And they’re powerful enough to perform a number of tasks. On lines without catenaries, for example, the new trains can run up to 80 km before they recharge—no mean feat.

How long do the batteries last?

We expect them to last for 10 years. That’s the guarantee from Bombardier, and it’s much longer than the life of a mass-market battery, like the ones you’d find in a mobile phone. The idea is for the batteries to last as long as possible to keep replacements to a minimum.

What about end-of-life recycling?

Under European regulations, we’re required to recycle at least 50% of these batteries. But some companies already recycle 75%, and by 2030 the processes should be even more efficient. Which means that it will be possible to recycle most battery components, and either reuse them in a new battery or repurpose them altogether. Bombardier is responsible for recycling, and we’ll take the time we need to study the options with them.

PlaneTER: More trains, less CO₂

Our battery TER project is just one part of PlaneTER, a sweeping campaign to slash CO2 emissions from our regional trains. Diesel still accounts for 26% of our TERs’ energy consumption, and PlaneTER aims to reduce our environmental impact by developing innovative trainsets that run on hybrid power, hydrogen, and biofuel, as well as batteries.

Learn more about PlaneTER

1 The €38 million investment breaks down as follows:

  • €5.4 million from each of the 5 regions
  • €6 million from SNCF
  • €5.5 million from Bombardier