Centro scores UK first with battery trams

Battery trams are set to return to the UK after an absence of more than 100 years. Centro, the delivery arm of the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority, has signed an agreement with CAF to adapt existing trams to (partially) operate on battery traction.

Centro ordered  21 Urbos 3 trams from the Spanish train & tram manufacturer in 2012. All will be equipped with roof-mounted lithium batteries to facilitate operation over short sections of catenary- free routes in environmentally sensitive areas. They will first see use on the 0.5 mile Birmingham New Street to Centenary Square extension, due for 2019 opening.

Other sections are being considered for battery only operation.

A Centro spokesman informed 21CR that the tram and its lithium ion OESS system are designed to run on 28 miles of catenary-free sections per day, and that the batteries will have a working life of seven years. The batteries will be recharged from the overhead line equipment.

The conversion cost is described as ‘commercially sensitive’ though Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP is contributing £3.15m, and UK Tram, the industry association, is providing another £1m.

There are only a few cities in the world and none in the UK that currently operate catenary-free street-running trams.

Battery trams have been used in the UK before:  Ironically, the longest-lived operation was the Birmingham Bournbrook line (1890-1901), and the last example was on the Swansea & Mumbles (1903).

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