Railroads have experimented with such technologies for a long time.  The tri-power locomotives of the 1930s capable of drawing power from an overhead wire, or running on batteries in areas where neither wires nor combustion were desirable, or running on diesel and recharging the batteries for extended range were an early version.  The technology of Hamburg's plug-in trackless trolley is also present in Milwaukee's new streetcar, which runs on batteries on short stretches of its line.

Now comes Stadler's Flirt Akku multiple-unit car, which is capable of venturing far from the overhead wire.
The traction equipment and the most important mechanical components are the same as are used on conventional Flirt EMUs, but the powertrain has been rebuilt and the battery installed. ‘This concept has allowed us to significantly reduce the development and approval times, and to ensure a high level of reliability’, said Steffen Obst, Head of Sales at Stadler Germany, adding that he hoped the Flirt Akku could help to reduce or eliminate emissions and encourage more people to travel by train.

The unit has a maximum speed of 140 km/h and range of 80 km in battery mode. The battery can be charged from the overhead electrification, from a fixed shore supply at termini and from regenerated braking energy. The three-car unit has 154 seats and capacity of 310 passengers, and is quieter than a comparable diesel vehicle.

The design is ready for production, and Stadler estimates that Flirt Akku units could be used to operate 80% of the non-electrified routes in Germany. It also sees opportunities for the Flirt Akku in Austria, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and other countries with a significant amount of non-electrified routes.
The concept has potential Stateside, for instance in extending high-density light rail services past the end of electrification, or, perhaps, as a way of getting South Shore Line commuter service from Chicago to Valparaiso without installing the overhead wires between State Line and Valparaiso.

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