The Long Island Rail Road plans to test-run some its trains on battery power, officials said Monday — something they said has never been done by a North American commuter railroad before.
Officials have hired Alstom Transport to test the feasibility of retrofitting rail cars to operate on batteries, starting with an initial trial run on M7 trains on the Oyster Bay and Port Jefferson branches.
The new tech could save the railroad big on electrifying its many diesel-powered lines, LIRR President Phil Eng said at a press conference in Oyster Bay.
“Over the last few years, technology has improved and batteries are smaller, wider and longer lasting than ever before,” Eng told reporters. “This was an opportunity for us to be on the leading edge, and steer industry in a new direction across the US.”
Eng said the batteries are used to power suburban railroads in Europe and light-rail trains across the world, but that the LIRR would be the first railroad in North America to use the tech on commuter trains.
Traditional electrification of the Port Jefferson and Oyster Bay branches would cost at least $17 billion and require “decades and decades of construction activity,” Eng said.
Some trains could be equipped with batteries as soon as next year, after an initial feasibility study. Eng said the tech would also enable single-seat rides into New York City by eliminating the need for transfers at Jamaica station.
“The first eight months we’ll be looking at how many batteries are needed to support our operational needs so they will they fit in the train car,” he told reporters.
“Part of the analysis will tell us if we need additional charging stations for longer distances — how fast can a battery recharge in that 60 second stop [at a station].”