We have set ambitious climate protection targets for ourselves at Deutsche Bahn. We will be climate-neutral by 2040. To this end, we are working on innovative solutions for alternative drive systems in order to phase out diesel traffic. One of these solutions involves testing modern battery trains.
Full power even without an overhead line
These battery trains, or battery electric multiple units (BEMU), enable green, electric train transport even on lines without a continuous overhead contact line. The electric multiple units essentially have a rechargeable battery on board. On sections with overhead lines, the batteries are charged via the pantograph. This makes it possible for trains to continue travel on non-electrified routes, which are otherwise only able to accommodate diesel vehicles. And thanks to renewable power, the new battery electric multiple units can even operate with zero local emissions.
On long routes, we will provide the necessary charging infrastructure with overhead line charging "islands" to ensure that the battery electric multiple units always have enough power. They will be used in areas where batteries need to be recharged but there isn't currently an overhead line. The islands will allow trains to recharge their batteries during the journey.
Batteries can also be recharged at stationary charging facilities, for example at storage sidings when trains are not in use. Our energy service provider, DB Energie, and DB Netz are designing, building and operating this charging infrastructure. The first charging islands are already in the design phase. The innovative overhead line island systems will begin supplying traction current to battery electric multiple units in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Additional islands are planned in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Island hopping in Schleswig-Holstein
We have started building the first charging islands in Schleswig-Holstein. At Kiel and Büchen stations, we are installing new catenary poles for just this purpose. The charging islands and substations will then be built by the end of 2023 on the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein in Heide, Husum and Tönning. Additional islands are planned in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.
First battery train successfully tested
DB Regio and Alstom have successfully tested the first battery electric multiple unit in passenger service in cooperation with the states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. The test runs on the Stuttgart–Horb line in Baden-Württemberg concluded at the beginning of May 2022 after covering a total of 30,000 kilometers. Using two different lines allowed us to test the train's performance on different route profiles and try out various charging scenarios. The test was a success: the train has proven its reliability, the battery operates well, and passengers and drivers alike enjoy the train's performance.
Beginning in 2025, DB Regio will also put the first fleet of battery electric multiple units into regular service on the rail network in the Palatinate region. The trains are being supplied by Stadler.