In-Motion Charging is not for Trains

Streetsblog Massachusetts editor Christian MilNeil has just asked a very delicate question on Twitter about battery power for public transportation. In-motion charging (IMC) is a positive technological development for buses, wiring part of a route in order to provide electric coverage to a much broader area. So why not use it for trains? The context is that the government of Massachusetts is doing everything in its power to avoid wiring commuter rail; its latest excuse is that a partly-wired system with battery-electric trains is cheaper. So how come IMC works for buses but not trains?

The answer is that trains and buses differ in ways that make fully wiring a train much more advantageous for equipment cost while costing less compared with IMC-style partial wiring – and the size of trains makes the equipment cost much more prominent.

Equipment cost

The cost of a single-deck electric multiple unit (EMU) other than high-speed rail is about $100,000 per linear meter of length, and appears to have changed little over the last 10-20 years. I have a list of recent tramways built in Europe for that cost, a shorter one of subways (including more outliers due to procurement problems or bespoke designs), and some standard citations for commuter rail EMUs. For the latter, here is a recent example of a Coradia Continental order in Germany: 200M€ for 32 trainsets, 20 with five 18-meter cars and 12 with four, or 75,000€ per linear meter.

In contrast, battery-EMUs (BEMUs) are far more expensive. Comparing like with like, here is a recent Coradia Continental BEMU order for Leipzig-Chemnitz, which line should have long been wired: 100M€ for 11 three-car, 56-meter long trainsets, or 160,000€ per linear meter.

Buses do not display such a premium. Trolleybus advocate Martin Wright writes a comparison of battery-electric and trolleybuses for Vancouver, and suggests that equipment costs are largely the same in the North American market (which is expensive by European standards). TU Berlin’s Dominic Jefferies and Dietmar Göhlich find that the base cost of an electric 12-meter bus is 450,000€, rising to 600,000€ with battery (p. 25); this is a premium, but it’s small, almost an order of magnitude less than that for trains per unit of length. Kiepe says that the cost of rebuilding 16 12-meter trolleybuses with IMC for Solingen is in the single-digit millions.


How come trains display such a large premium for batteries over electric traction supplied by trackside distribution (catenary wire or third rail) and buses don’t? This is not about the cost of the batteries: Jeffries-Göhlich cite a cost of 500-800€/kWh for a battery pack on a bus, and while Alstom hasn’t said what the battery capacity of the Coradia is in kWh, based on the range (120 km) and this slide deck about BEMUs (or PDF-p. 22 of a VDE study about EMUs and BEMUs), the capacity is likely around 700 kWh for the entire three-car train, with a cost about an order of magnitude less than the observed cost premium over EMUs.

Rather, the issue is likely about fitting the batteries on the train. Railvolution reports that to fit the batteries, Alstom had to demotorize one of the three powered bogies, reducing the maximum power drawn from 2.16 MW to 1.44. As a byproduct, this also somewhat hurts performance, increasing the stop penalty from the train’s maximum speed of 160 km/h by 15-20 seconds (46 empty or 51 full for an EMU, 60 and 71 respectively for a BEMU).

The cost of wiring

The cost of trolleybus wiring, at least judging by industry brochures such as that of UITP, is linear in route-km. This makes IMC attractive in that it cuts said cost by a factor of 2 to 3 on a single route, or even more on a route that branches out of a common trunk. For this reason, IMC is ideally suited for branched bus networks such as that of Boston, and is less valuable on grids where it’s uncommon for multiple bus routes to run together for a significant portion, such as the systems in Chicago, Toronto, and Vancouver.

But rail electrification does not quite work this way. Overall, the cost of wiring is mostly proportional to route-length, but the cost appears to be split evenly between the wire and the substations. A full-size commuter train in a major metropolitan area like Boston would be drawing around 7 MW while accelerating; a Citaro bus has a 220 kW diesel engine, or 125 in the electric version. Even taking into account that buses are slower and more frequent than trains and thus run at much higher frequency per route-km, there’s nearly a full order of magnitude between the substation costs per km for the two modes.

The upshot is that while IMC saves the cost of installing wire, it does not save a single penny on the cost of installing substations. The substations still need to fully charge a train in motion – and derating the train’s power as Alstom did does not even help much, it just means that the same amount of energy is applied over a longer period while accelerating but then still needs to be recharged on the wire.

How benefits of electrification scale

Electrification has a number of benefits over diesel power:

  • No local air pollution
  • Much less noise, and none while idling
  • Higher reliability
  • Higher performance
  • Much lower lifecycle costs

The first three are shared between externally-supplied electric and battery-electric power, at least when there’s IMC (pure battery power is unreliable in cold weather). The fourth is a mix: BEMUs have better performance than DMUs but worse than EMUs – whereas with buses this flips, as trolleybuses have performance constraints at trolleywire junctions. The fifth is entirely an EMU benefit, because of the high cost of BEMU acquisition.

The first two benefits are also much more prominent for buses than for trains. Buses run on streets; the pollution affects nearby pedestrians and residents as well as waiting riders, and the idling noise is a nuisance at every intersection and whenever there’s car traffic. Bus depots are an air quality hazard, leading to much environmental justice activism about why they’re located where they are. Trains are more separated from the public except when people wait for them.

In contrast, the last benefit, concerning lifecycle costs, is more prominent on trains. The benefits of electrification scale with the extent of service; that the acquisition cost of EMUs is around half that of BEMUs, and the lifecycle cost is around half that of DMUs, means that the return on investment on electrification can be modeled as a linear function of the fleet size in maximum service.

A US-standard 25 meter railcar costs $2.5 million at global EMU prices (which the US was recently able to achieve, though not anymore), and twice that at BEMU prices. 40-year depreciation and 4% interest are $162,500/year; a single train per hour, per car, is around $3,000/km (this assumes 50-60 km/h average speed counting turnaround time), or $6,000 counting both directions, and lifecycle maintenance costs appear to be similar to initial acquisition cost, for a total of around $12,000/km. At $2.5 million/km, this means electrification has an ROI of 0.5% per peak car per hour; a single 8-car train per hour is already enough for 4% ROI.

The numbers don’t work out this way for buses. Workhorse city buses run every 5 minutes at rush hour, and may occasionally run articulated buses, but the capacity is still only equivalent to a single hourly train; in the absence of IMC, electrification of buses is therefore hard to justify without the additional environmental benefits. But those environmental benefits can be provided at much lower cost with IMC.

Why electrify?

The upshot of the above discussion is that the reasons to electrify buses and trains are not the same. Bus electrification benefits center environmental and environmental justice: diesel buses are noisy and polluting and have poor ride quality. The only reason to wire buses at all rather than go for unwired battery-electric buses (BEBs) is that BEBs are not reliable in freezing temperatures and cost far more than diesels due to their downtime for charging.

But rail electrification is different. The environmental benefits are real, but less important. Train depots have not been major sources of air pollution since the steam era, unlike bus depots. The primary reasons are technical: equipment acquisition costs, maintenance costs, performance, reliability. And those overall advantage EMUs over BEMUs with IMC.


  1. plaws0

    Need to read the whole thing but just wanted to jump in early and remind everyone that the MBTA IS DEWIRING THEIR REMAINING ETB ROUTES.

  2. plaws0

    OK, I’ve read it now. Good stuff as always. No politician or high transit admin will ever read it much less understand it because, increasingly, those people don’t live with the rest of us any more.

    Now … “Train depots have not been major sources of air pollution since the steam era, unlike bus depots.”

    Ehhh …

    Metra has, for many years, hated their electric division, which the Illinois Central rebuilt as a rapid transit line. With off-board fare collection, even, that Metra was finally able to abolish. I’m sure they will, at some point try to follow the T’s lead and dewire that line as the T has with their ETBs. But in the meantime, the air quality at the the two major Diesel terminals is … not good.

  3. Phake Nick

    > Much lower lifecycle costs
    Aren’t battery electric buses use-and-dump after 7 years of life when the batteries life end? Sure the batteries can be replaced but was the replacement cost justified?

    > The primary reasons are technical: equipment acquisition costs, maintenance costs, performance, reliability.
    Then why some poor rail companies in Japan, like Echigo Tokimeki Railway Nihonkai Hisui Line, decided to abandon electric trains except for sightseeing service and operate diesel trains citing lower cost, even when they are being paid to maintain and do maintain electrification capability for through freight trains? Half of the line is a mix of AC/DC electrification and acquisition cost for trains that can support both types of electrification would be higher, but wouldn’t it be an option to change existing electrifcation equipment to use all AC?

    • Alon Levy

      For what it’s worth, the old Trans Europ Express network ran diesel trains to avoid dealing with voltage changes, so it’s not unprecedented.

      • plaws0

        Because that was hard in 1957. Not hard at all in 2022 and isn’t there supposed to be a TEE 2 coming? I’m sure it will be all pans/all the time.

        Also, we should abandon all attempts at electrifying everything because there was one time in Japan that they did an MBTA and ran Diesels under wire.

      • Max Wyss

        Yes, and in 1962, the multisystem RAe TEE” train sets started running between Zürich and Milano, switching to Milano – Paris. Later in their life, they also ran Zürich – Bruxelles via Strasbourg – Luxembourg. These trains featured in-motion system switching; the driver pressed the button for the new system, and the control logic did the rest.

        Note that “TEE v.2” is just a buzzword by the (fortunately) former German minister of transportation. But multisystem is really no big deal anymore (I just recently saw an overview of the various variants of the Siemens Vectron locomotives; there are about 30 of them…)

        • adirondacker12800

          If you are building new stuff it’s 25kV and grid frequency, everywhere.
          Metro North rehabbed the ancient electrification and went with 12.5kV/grid frequency. NJTransit converted the DC Morris and Essex lines to 25kV/grid frequency. The stuff eventually wears out and some rationalization can happen when it’s smaller systems.

    • Max Wyss

      FWIW, in the procurement cost for BTB with IMC in Switzerland, one battery replacement after 7 to 8 years is already included; the economic lifespan of such a vehicle is set to 15 years (technically, it will last way longer if properly maintained).

      • Phake Nick

        Battery Trolleybuses? They should have lower battery wear as charging opportunities on route can keep the battery level moderate?

        • Max Wyss

          Keep in mind that any braking will be regenerative, and primarily go into the battery (before the grid and/or brake resistors). With the advanced energy management system, it is the battery feeding the drive train. The way the battery can be charged is situational (overhead wire, regenerative braking, charging plug). This system, in use in the Swisstrolley Plus, 5 and newer, reduces the overall energy consumption of the vehicle by 25%, compared to a straight trolleybus.

          To get back to the comment, the traction battery will have a lot of sometimes harsh uncharging/charging cycles. (note: the chemistry used is specific for transit applications; the chemistry used in, for examples, Teslas, would make the battery useless within less than a year…)

  4. wiesmann

    Isn’t there an hypothesis here that substation cost is linear with power? If a substation’s worth of track is not electrified, then the two adjacent ones have to provide the “lost” power, but this is only a problem if stations with 50% more power are 50% more expensive. I would expect such a station to have many fixed costs (land, building). Am I missing something?

    • Alon Levy

      Substation costs rise with power; I think it’s linear or at most weakly degressive, based on one of the references in our electrification doc at TM.

      • marcel

        Peak power, yes. Peak power is when the designed number of trains are accelerating. BEMUs don’t use more peak power because the batteries charge while cruising, not while accelerating.

          • Max Wyss

            Those mentioned 700 kWh weigh approximately 3.5 t, corresponding to about 40 passengers. So, the additional weight is within the normal span of the vehicle.

        • adirondacker12800

          The whole point of using battery trains is that there won’t be any electricity along the tracks.

          • Eric2

            There will be electricity along the tracks, you just have to carry it with you on the train. Very expensive and inefficient.

  5. Max Wyss

    There are fundamental flaws in the number shuffling.

    The mentioned contract with Alstom contains way more than just the vehicles. It also contains spares and maintenance for about 10 years. And we don’t know what else is included in those 100 M€ for 11 units.

    So, you did stumble over your own feet here…

    FWIW, the delivery of the first of 55 FLIRTAkku for NAH.SH (Schleswig Holstein) will happen shortly. This contract is said to be worth 600 M€ for 55 units. However, it involves the guarantee for operationabilty for 30 years (meaning spares, maintenance and upgrades). These service components are worth more than the vehicles proper. I am not quite sure whether the 50 Options are also included in the price, most likely not.

    • Alon Levy

      It’s spares and maintenance for nine years, so around 20% of the expected lifecycle.

      The FLIRT Akku order is 2-car trains, so with 30 years of maintenance it’s 300,000€/linear meter.

      • Max Wyss

        So, the FLIRT Akku vehicle cost translates into the 120 to 140 k€ range, which translates into a BEMU prime of 20 to 40%.

        • Alon Levy

          More toward the upper end, and the cost of an EMU is not 100k€/m, it’s $100k/m (always at PPP) – that Coradia example is 75k€/m.

          • Onux

            Parity has only been achieved in the past six months or less, but at the same time it has averaged around 0.9 for the past five years and never dipped below 0.8. The Coradia order at 75kEur (83k$) is particularly cheap if global average is $100k. Bad cherry picking by Alon.
            If average is indeed $100k (Eur 90k) then BEMU vehicle alone at 120 to 140 k€ is a premium of 1.33 to 1.55. Alon’s BEB example was from 450k to 600k Eur, a premium of ……. 1.33. It appears Max’s argument is looking stronger.

          • Alon Levy

            I’m doing PPP conversions, so, for me, $100k is around 70k€; it’s a comparison that’s being done entirely in euros, and the dollar’s role is just as a PPP conversion plus the numerology of the round 100k number. For Europe, the Coradia Continental order is not unusually cheap – here are some other recent single-deck EMUs:

            Mireos for the Rhine-Neckar cost 270M€/57 70-meter trains, or 67k€/m (this is the largest Mireo order to date).
            Mireos and double-deck Desiro HCs for Go Ahead, a private concessionaire, cost together 86k€/m for an order that, by length, is 2/3 Mireo, 1/3 Desiro HC.
            Talent 3s for Vorarlberg were ordered for 150M€/21 105-meter trains, or 68k€/m, but Bombardier did not deliver, so they’re switching to Desiros.
            Talent 2s for BW, which unlike the Austrian Talent 3s were actually delivered, cost 215M€/24*56 m + 19*88 m trains, or 71k€/m.

  6. adirondacker12800

    battery power is unreliable in cold weather
    Discharging batteries makes them warm. Charging batteries makes them warm. Most of them have active cooling systems. And heating in automobiles.
    Range may decrease because of the increased HVAC load but cold weather doesn’t bother big batteries.

    • Alon Levy

      The increased HVAC load literally makes a difference between being able to run your BEB in regular service and having to do terminal recharge every round trip.

      • adirondacker12800

        Silly customers, they want heat in the winter and cool in the summer. In most of the U.S. that’s eight or more months of the year.

        • plaws0

          Metra adds (or did in the early oughts!) a 2nd F40/MP36 in the summer on long trains (10-car, IIRC) presumably because of the HVAC load. I don’t recall them adding a 2nd unit in winter so conclude that cooling takes more power than heating because in the winter, the heat generated by “the lading” means less need to supplement.

          They’ve brought in a bunch of new-to-them power since I lived there and may have increased HEP-generation capability. They had mostly F40 (many varieties) that were all screamers.

          • F-Line to Dudley

            F40 “Screamers” take all their HEP load straight off the prime mover, so propulsion gets much suckier under heavy HVAC load. Especially on older DC-traction makes like that. Most other agencies have diesels with an additional HEP generator separate from the prime mover to nullify most of that performance hit, and newerfangled AC-traction inverter locos don’t take quite as steep a hit as the inverter DC’s do. F40PH prime movers only top out at 3000-3200 HP, less than their 3600 HP MP36’s and way less than a 4250 HP inverter-based Amtrak GE Genesis P42DC…so once the HEP saps that energy there’s not a lot of propulsion left on the Screamer to go around for a long and/or stuffed train.

            That’s why Metra has to double-up their heavy-ridership routes during weather extremes. They’re one of the few (only?) commuter agencies that has to resort to that, because they institutionally insist on all- inverter-based HEP for some reason while having to make do with an older (and weaker) DC fleet.

          • Alon Levy

            Fossil fuel power generates free waste heat, so summer cooling is the hard part. Batteries do not, so freezing temperatures are a bigger problem than 30 degree summers – it takes 45+ Phoenix heat waves to stress BEBs.

          • adirondacker12800

            They gave up on heating cars with waste heat decades ago.

          • Onux

            “They gave up on heating cars with waste heat decades ago.”

            Where are you getting this nonsense from? The heater in literally every car with an internal combustion engine works by diverting engine coolant from the radiator to a heat exchanger that warms the passenger cabin. That is the precise definition of using waste heat.

          • plaws0

            You’re mixing modes – buses have that, trains do not. This sub-sub-subthread was talking about US Diesel-hauled commute trains. In what we were blabbing about, all HVAC is powered by the locomotive. Some locomotives have a separate ICE for HEP generation, but most of Metra’s do not. The term “screamer” refers to Metra’s (and Amtrak’s in the past) early F40 locomotives that had to keep the prime mover at a high speed for the HEP to work … even if the train was in the station.

          • adirondacker12800

            They don’t haul around buses with railroad locomotives.

          • Sascha Claus

            With DMUs, the engine is close to the passenger compartment, so it should be possible to heat them with waste heat. I don’t know how many of all those dozens of DMU types actually do this.

    • Max Wyss

      This has a relevance for buses, but way less so for trains.

      Also, one should only look at range in unrestricted mode (which means that all consumers (heating, cooling, lighting, USB charging etc.) are switched on. VBZ counts about 3.5 kWh/km for single articulated (trolley)buses. So calculate how big and heavy your battery has to be to fullfill a whole day’s work.

  7. adirondacker12800

    40-year depreciation and 4% interest are $162,500
    Most of them need a major overhaul at 20 years. Some of them are so beat up at that point, they go out and buy new.

  8. Max Wyss

    BEMUs have a very good reason to be. Mainly rural lines, where a complete electrification would be rather expensive, and the capacity and service levels are rather low, can seriously profit from BEMUs.

    Fundamental differences between a BEMU and a BTB with IMC:

    • A BEMU is primarily an AC-based EMU; including a battery means that the charging infrastructure is on board. DC is not a big problem, because the intermediate circuitry of a modern electric unit is DC. On the BTB, the charging infrastructure is also on board, but can be way simpler, because the system is DC.

    • Ranges differ by a magnitude. While a BTB has an unrestricted range of around 10 km, the BEMU has an unrestricted range of 100 km and more. The requirement for the battery capacity is according. However, note that a powerful BEB may have 700 kWh installed.

    • Stationary charging. While standing still, the trolley shoes can transfer about 90 A (otherwise, the wire gets too warm). With 750 V, the maximum transferable power is therefore 67.5 kW. Note that while in motion, 400 to 600 A are possible. The same contact current also applies for pantographs. However, with 15 kV, 1350 kW can be transferred. The implication is that even 700 kWh can be “filled” quite fast on a BEMU. In fact, there is a “charging station”, which is very simple (because all it needs is a transformer for galvanic separation, and protection circuitry). Furrer&Frey developed such a station named Voltap. Together with a few meters of power rail, a BEMU can be fed enough energy for a quick charge. All it needs is a middle-voltage grid access.

    So, in short, we look at two completely different scenarios. While for buses a pure battery powering is possible (and strongly pushed by the industry, for rail applications it is an In Motion Charging solution by default. FWIW, there were two generations of BMUs in Germany, which were quite successful for their era.

    Our objective is to decarbonising diesel operated secondary lines. For that, the BEMU is the most suitable and fastest available solution. And even if full electrification is planned, the BEMU can provide the intermediate step. And by the time the whole network is electrified, the lifespan of the BEMU is reached as well.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, unless you’re being completionist (which at a minimum NL and Belgium should be), it’s fine to leave lines unwired if they have very low service levels, for example an hourly RegionalBahn running short trains. The problem is when Berlin-size American cities look at lines like this and decide that this is also a valuable exercise for urban commuter lines running a 200-meter train every 15 minutes at rush hour.

      • Max Wyss

        Technically spoken, that would be no hindrance.

        However, and here I fully agree, for such a service level, full electrification is the only way to go.

  9. Sassy

    > Rather, the issue is likely about fitting the batteries on the train. Railvolution reports that to fit the batteries, Alstom had to demotorize one of the three powered bogies, reducing the maximum power drawn from 2.16 MW to 1.44. As a byproduct, this also somewhat hurts performance, increasing the stop penalty from the train’s maximum speed of 160 km/h by 15-20 seconds (46 empty or 51 full for an EMU, 60 and 71 respectively for a BEMU)

    Isn’t this mostly a side effect of Coradia being a low floor design? Japanese BEMUs are high floor, and afaik all find space below the floor to put batteries without having to get rid of motor bogies vs a normal rural EMU.

    I think JR East even wrote something about putting batteries into rural EMUs that run on fully electrified track, to capture otherwise lost regenerative braking electricity. Since JR East is quite conscious about cost, I assume they envision a future where battery EMUs carry very little price premium over non battery EMUs.

    • Henry

      There’s a lot of things wrong with the LIRR battery EMU proposal, but an interesting thing is that I believe they expect the batteries to go where the lightly used overhead racks currently are.

  10. Onux

    The case for full electrification of mainline trains seems solid (even if Alon overstates the advantage – see Max’s comments above). But in addition to Max’s example of rural lines, what about urban tram systems? Many have branched typologies with shared trunks (SF, Phila. and Boston are obvious examples, but Amsterdam would work as well) and the lower weight and acceleration compared to mainline rail should mean any battery premium should be similar to busses.

    I am well aware that my examples are fully wired for historical reasons, but if a small to
    mid sized city was looking to build a tram network from scratch or provide a moderate capacity upgrade to a successful bus trunk, wouldn’t IMC provide the same advantage (cut out a major portion of route-km to wire and maintain)?

    • Max Wyss

      The autonomy for trams where catenary is not suitable/wanted does not need to be big; maybe 1.5 km at most. Therefore, it can operate with a very small battery (and it does not even need to operate unrestricted). That means that the additional weight can be neglected. In fact, having a traction battery is not even that bad for a tram, because regenerative braking energy can go into the battery instead of being heated in resistor banks (feeding back into the system requires substations which are able to take care of it, so, it may not be an option).

    • Phake Nick

      Kaohsiung LRT use capacitor instead of battery to power their tram and recharge at stations instead of using overhead lines, capacitor recharge at regular station stop time is enough to provide sufficient power so no in motion charging is necessary, but I am not sure about how it compare against battery in term of things like cost, and I am also not sure about exactly how much it cost more than alternative technologies.

      • Onux

        The issue with capacitors is not so much cost as operating conditions. Compared to batteries, capacitors charge much faster (seconds vs minutes/hours) provide better power density (i.e. for acceleration) but lose charge quickly (may self drain in hours or days versus weeks for a battery) and behave lower energy density (i.e. lower range). I also wonder if putting the charging infrastructure into the ground at stops may be more expensive on a route length basis than stringing simple trolly wire (i.e. not catenary) which requires no digging.

        For a LRT/mass transit system (with frequent stops, guaranteed at each station, over a shorter line) these can all be positives: you don’t need to carry heavy batteries with enough power around because you can get the power you need quickly every time you stop, and the next stop is always close (plus high power means better acceleration and performance to keep average speed high despite the stops). For what Alon is arguing IMC is good for (tail routes branching off of a central trunk), capacitors are not as good. You may need to provide charging stations along the tails, which defeats the purpose of being cost effective and keeping infrastructure to the trunk or you would need to carry a greater weight than batteries to be sure you can complete the tail and make it back to the trunk, since energy density is lower. High acceleration is not a premium for surface transit that won’t hit as high a top speed as mass transit, and on lower demand tails away from the core it may not be necessary to stop at every stop if someone does not need to board or alight, lowering acceleration needs further.

        Lithium ion batteries have completely remade energy storage for phones, computer and all electric cars, but regular car batteries are still lead acid despite the technology being old. Different use patterns exploit different advantages and disadvantages of each technology. Capacitors may mature to where they can allow heavy use urban bus routes, mass transit and inner commuter rail systems to be “off wire” – that is no third rail or overhead catenary but all power provided at closely spaced stations. For general use busses or trams I expect a combination of batteries and IMC will remain best.

  11. Eric2

    “as trolleybuses have performance constraints at trolleywire junctions”

    Couldn’t this be solved by not wiring the junctions, and providing a tiny battery that is sufficient just for junctions?

    • Max Wyss

      Trolleybuses always had/ve an auxiliary power supply; in the olden days, it was lead batteries, later on an industrial diesel power generation group, and nowadays a battery again (or a somewhat bigger one, making a BTB). So, if the vehicle gets stuck, it can always be moved away.

  12. plaws0

    MBAs are a problem, IMHO. But let’s make them work on something that would move us all forward and not just re-arrange the deck chairs.

    This is US-centric (and Canada-centric) but it seems to me that what we need is a way for railroads to electrify without the all the stuff between the point where the power arrives from the vendor and the point where it is converted to voltage suitable for the traction motors being “on their books”.

    Huge asset to add to their books, books that already have huge assets on them. IANA accountant (my wife said give me that checkbook *now* when I bounced the first car payment after we got married) but it seems to me that if you could sell the power to the railroads *at the pantograph* we’d have many more miles of properly-powered railroads in North America.

    Get an outside power distribution company to own and maintain the entire thing to and including the trolley wire. The consumer (the RR) would certainly pay a much higher per-MWh cost than if they did the distribution themselves but *they wouldn’t have to do the distribution themselves*, which is the whole point. Just like they don’t drill for oil, turn it into Diesel fuel and deliver it the yards where their current half-electric locomotives get re-fueled.

    Challenges? Oh, plenty – just having an outside company working around the right-of-way is tricky *now* let alone when they are repairing/maintaining the thing that makes your business run. There would have to be very tight connections between the power distribution company and MoW at the very least.

    But seriously, stop burning oil.

    • Alon Levy

      Massachusetts’ problem is not MBAs, except specifically Baker and his people. It’s a pathological politics of trying to cut everything that is proposed into a smaller piece, regardless of ROI. It’s not even about a specific political ideology – those same people do the same to neoliberal proposals too. This behavior cascades down to senior civil servants, who are trained over decades to justify very informal decision made by the political appointees, leading to potted plant behavior and sandbagging of things the politicals don’t want like electrification.

      Germany has much of this problem as well, in a different direction: SPD party elders (esp. the ones from Lower Saxony) are convinced that it’s their job to explain How The World Works to younger activists, and as a result resist any and all change, leading to cozying up to Putin for the sake of some auto jobs. The recent news that Germany is going to delay the exit from coal is part of this package: at this point renewables are cheaper than coal, and natural gas plant workers require retraining either way, but renewables are for hippies and the Lower Saxony party elders want to stress that they hate the hippies.

      • Eric2

        And everyone wants to stress that they hate the nuclear! Better replace nuclear with coal because, as we all know, climate change is just a political talking point that won’t actually affect anyone’s life much.

        • Alon Levy

          …sort of? The Greens are the only party with anti-nuclear party elites, and they’ve been the most flexible in the last year at the national level (for example, throwing away the remains of their Neither Washington Nor Moscow stance). It’s entirely a question of how much you believe Habeck when he says that he tried to keep the nuclear plants open but the technical difficulties were too hard – for example, Germany did not procure uranium for them in advance because it was planning to shut them down, so now they’d have to look for new sources. The transparency here isn’t great, but so far the Greens have not behaved like SPD with its constant doublespeak just because some party elders who like lecturing to younger people think heavy industry is more moral than other jobs.

          • Matthew Hutton

            The problem with the youth led approach is that it doesn’t play well in the outer suburbs, towns and rural areas.

            In contrast Blairism and third way politics seems to play decently well at the ballot box.

            And classic campaigning with leaflets and knocking on doors the old fashioned way seems to do well too.

          • Alon Levy

            Have you seen SPD’s polling lately? It’s in the toilet and they’re losing state elections they should be winning, appeasement is that unpopular.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I mean to be fair both Bill Clinton and Blair would have been very strong supporters of Ukraine.

            Obviously Germany’s history is different. And since World War Two it has been more pacifist – but it’s not that different. I bet if you did a focus group of older homeowners in small town Germany they’d support more robust arming of Ukraine against Russia.

    • Eric2

      It seems that you are looking for a tax loophole of the sort that private railroads would have found long ago, if it existed.

      And yes in theory there should be some kind of land value tax so that land owners don’t “land-bank” their rail lines or downtown parking lots or whatever, but good luck getting this in our lifetimes.

      • Matthew Hutton

        As long as it was carefully designed and sold to not upset suburban homeowners and perhaps small scale landlords I reckon you could do it.

        • UrbanUnPlanner

          Assuming you’re replying to Eric2 re: LVT — it isn’t the suburban homeowners and mom-and-pop landlords that you have to worry about so much (their tax bills will stay the same or go down under LVT or even split-rating), but the major urban land speculators (“hodlers” of land in dense urban areas that often leave it vacant, fail to maintain buildings that sit upon it, or pave it over for surface parking) who will lobby intensely against getting soaked (which is what LVT will do to them, intentionally and by design).

          • Matthew Hutton

            That’s presumably because the urban land speculators are better at selling their case to the voters than the opposition. So the opposition needs to do better marketing and go out and speak to the voters more often.

      • plaws0

        Henry George is dead, I’m afraid, so … And you might be right. I have no issue with the Feds stepping in and “incentivizing” RRs to string wires through the tax code instead of just giving money to the accidental billionaire class as they seem to like to do now.

  13. UrbanUnPlanner

    I suggest changing the title of this piece to “In-Motion Charging is not for Regional Rail” — you’re pretty spot on in that context, but when you zoom out to a larger map scale, you not only have Max Wyss’ point about IMC on rural coverage passenger lines, but the need for IMC tech in the context of the classical dominion of locomotive haulage, namely long distance passenger service (where the consequences of stranding passengers due to dewirement, power failure, etc are rather higher than in a suburban or corridor service) and freight (where battery autonomy is necessary for unit train handling if nothing else, since the loco has to be able to go thru the loading shed and most types of cars seen in unit train service are loaded from the top) is much clearer and the drawbacks are much smaller (additional weight on drivers isn’t so much a bad thing for a locomotive provided your line can handle the axle loads) than in the context of a MU that’s stopping and starting all the time.

    • Alon Levy

      Long-distance passenger rail doesn’t really have IMC opportunities. Lines are either electrified or not – to have an IMC solution there needs to be electrification at regular intervals on the route, which means that in practice the line should probably be entirely wired. Maybe there’s partial electrification because an intercity trunk line has some unelectrified branch, but then the cost of full electrification is small compared with the cost premium of BEMUs over a longer distance.

    • xh

      First, today there’s no “classical dominion of locomotive haulage” for passenger service anyway. EMUs are superier than loco-hauled passenger trains in all aspects, from low-speed but frequent transit services to high-speed but less-frequent intercity services. Industry-wide, Siemens is the only major vendor that still provides high-speed passenger locomotives, others have been all in EMU (or at least a fixed-consist trainset) solutions. CRRC tried multiple times to sell their high-speed locomotives, the recent attempt being HXD1G/HXD3G (later named to FXD1/FXD3). Thankfully the Chinese national rail operator (CR) has been sensible that none of these has been used for high-speed services.

      Second, railway electrification can be, and should be highly reliable. Citing things like “dewirement”, “power failure” as excuses for battery substitution or redundancy is just as ridiculous as Amtrak turning to hybrid power on the NEC for so-called “reliability enhancement” – Such incidents should not occur frequently in the first place.

      Just wire up everything and keep them in good condition.

      • Sassy

        > Just wire up everything and keep them in good condition.

        Even in the most well maintained systems, failures can occur. Just last year there was a cascading substation failure that took out like half of JR East services in Tokyo and some passengers were stuck on a train for 2 hours. If batteries become really cheap someday, it would be neat if urban/suburban trains could limp to the next station in the event of power failure.

        And even perfectly maintained systems are not immune to natural disasters, which is why the newest N700S Shinkansen trains have battery backups to limp out of danger in the event of an earthquake.

        • Sassy

          Not to say that US operators should be using battery trains, but that they definitely have their uses.

      • Matthew Hutton

        China has the significant advantage that the vast majority of its rail infrastructure is less than 30 years old. A lot of European or American infrastructure is a lot older.

        Plus I suspect the Chinese infrastructure is better mapped as it is newer.

  14. Tom Zara

    FLIRT battery-powered multiple unit for NAH.SH, Germany
    Stadler’s two-car battery-powered FLIRT train is the first series-produced multiple unit for the first decarbonized, non-electrified rail network in Germany. Designed for non-electrified or only partially electrified routes, the battery-powered FLIRT vehicle is extremely versatile. The batteries can be charged while the train is travelling under overhead contact lines as well as at electrified stops. Charging is also possible with standardized UIC preheating devices. In addition, kinetic energy is recovered during braking. This means that this latest generation of battery vehicle can be used much more flexibly than the traditional battery trains that have characterized railway operations for generations. During a track test, Stadler set the world record of 224 kilometres travelled in battery operation with the battery-powered FLIRT prototype. The 46-metre-long multiple unit has 124 seats as well as two spacious and fully accessible multifunctional zones for wheelchairs, pushchairs and bicycles. The entirely air-conditioned and step-free regional vehicles have bright, spacious passenger compartments and are equipped with a wheelchair-accessible toilet. 55 battery-electric FLIRT multiple units are included in the order that Nahverkehrsverbund Schleswig-Holstein GmbH (NAH.SH) awarded to Stadler in 2019 as part of the first open-technology tender ever organized in Germany for traction vehicles with alternative drive technologies.

    Battery-powered FLIRT vehicle presentation

    Track T08/40, 20 September 2022, 3.30 p.m

  15. Bryan Anderson

    You make a convincing case (if anyone who reads your blog needed to be convinced) that high-frequency regional rail needs to be wired and that Americans need to stop being afraid of building fixed infrastructure. But I’m curious about what you’d propose for long but low-frequency tails on regional rail lines, such as Caltrain’s roughly 25-mile tail to Gilroy (or maybe beyond to Salinas in the near future).

    Pretending for a moment that American freight rail isn’t electrification-hostile and that Caltrain knows how to electrify a rail line with normal costs, I wonder what is the best way to handle this. It might make sense to run high-frequency service (with overhead wire, obviously) through the built-up San Jose suburbs as far as Blossom Hill, but then the line gets very rural and the frequency will be very low (currently 3 trains per day—maybe it should be higher than that, but probably still averaging less than one per hour).

    Even if Caltrain could do it with normal costs, I have a hard time imagining it would be worth wiring 25 miles to serve maybe 6 trains per day per direction. If this was a standalone low-frequency line, I would think it would need to be DMU or pure BEMU. But it’s a tail of a longer (soon-to-be-) wired line, roughly 50 miles wired. Is this a niche where it might actually make sense to use an IMC-BEMU to take advantage of the longer wired portion and still be able to serve the tail without a transfer?

    • mobert roses

      sadly the insane folks over at caltrain are already planning to piss away millions of public dollars on BEMU “studies”.

      caltrain shouldn’t even run south of tamien, and it certainly shouldn’t be electrified. if gilroy is served at all, it should be served with the new EMUs towed by an existing MP36PH, decoupled at diridon.

      • Luke

        I mean, there’s an argument to be had that if California wasn’t insistent on suicide by way of restraining housing construction to the point that it’s having a notable impact on population growth, somewhere like Gilroy could benefit from proximity to San Jose/SF and Gilroy could be part of an electrified regional rail network, but we remain sadly grounded in this particular reality.

        • Eric2

          If California wasn’t insistent on suicide by way of restraining housing construction, the Bay Area could house 20 million people north of Blossom Hill before a single person had to live in sprawl south of Blossom Hill.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Housing plus better trains in tandem is a model that should allow the Bay Area to build more homes.

          • Frederick

            The point is, if San Francisco wants more housing, then San Francisco should densify itself, instead of telling Gilroy to densify.

          • Luke

            Agreed. Doesn’t mean that the need for a place as relatively far-flung as Gilroy would never need to densify, itself, and as has been discussed here before, once you’ve got the most important parts of a network set up, extending it to serve the longer-tail trips is easier to justify.

      • Onux

        Caltrain shouldn’t run south of Blossom Hill, and should be electrified to there. Geographically and demographically that is the southern end of the Bay Area urban conurbation, and the entire continuous urban area should be served by the commuter/regional rail system.

        South of Blossom Hill (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, etc. to Salinas/Monterrey) should be served by a southern extension of Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor (what in Europe would be RB/RE service) balancing out the northern end serving Davis/Sacramento/etc.

        • Bryan Anderson

          I agree that south of Blossom Hill should be an infrequent RegionalBahn-style service, not S-Bahn. But I don’t think the question of serving it with Capitol Corridor vs. Caltrain really answers my question of how to power a “long tail” like this one. In this case, Capitol Corridor has talked in their vision plan about wanting to increase service levels and eventually electrify—what then? If all the higher-frequency trains to San Jose are electrified, should the southern RegionalBahn tail to Gilroy be served with DMU, pure BEMU, or IMC-BEMU?

          Stating it more generally, if you have a frequent electrified corridor and you want a handful of the trains to continue to serve a long infrequent tail, is that a niche where IMC trains actually make sense?

          • Richard Mlynarik

            In this case nobody remotely sane would “want” “a handful of the trains to continue to serve such a [basket case of a] long infrequent tail”.

            The answer is that the few score daily potential riders can transfer (from buses, one were to be honest about cost/benefit) in “downtown” San Jose to the more frequent service north of the regional hegemon.

            If there are ever several thousands per day demanding throught service, one could entertain other arrangements. Then.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I think you might find it’s easier to do TOD in the peripheral areas to the Bay Area than in the centre. People would gain more cafes, bars and restaurants as well as a more lively scene – which would almost certainly benefit the existing residents.

            Some parkway stations would probably also be a good idea and you could have parking on one side and TOD on the other.

          • adirondacker12800

            making one side of the station a parking desert halves the dense walkable places. Put the parking desert someplace deserted, out in some highway interchange can work.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Not having parking means the existing older homeowners will object and the project will never happen. It’s a compromise.

            And 500 parking spaces gives you maybe 250,000 passengers a year or a little more. It’s not to be sniffed at.

          • adirondacker12800

            If you have to bulldoze their house to build the parking they won’t be living there anymore.
            Putting the parking someplace else keeps them in the neighborhood and keeps traffic out of it.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I doubt you’d knock down existing housing to build car parking.

            Most likely you’d put a new station out of town with low rise apartments or small duplex houses on one side and parking on the other. Perhaps near a major road with the housing away from the road.

            In the centre of the existing settlement probably you would redevelop any existing housing and make it denser and mix in some cafes and restaurants.

          • adirondacker12800

            If you are putting it someplace greenfield there are no neighbors to object. If you want a lot more parking in some existing suburb something will have to be torn down.

          • Tiercelet

            @Matthew Hutton

            You’re literally describing the Millbrae BART extension–obvious high-utility project (extends BART and links it to Caltrain which serves the rest of the Peninsula, as well as provides a transit link to SFO), built in a former light-industrial area with a nice big parking complex on the “wrong” side of the tracks & on the “right” side they tore down a bowling alley along El Camino Real (the nearby major road) to build a couple 5-storey housing complexes.

            Massive local opposition–even counter to obvious self-interest–because of the cocktail of racism and classism that drives Bay Area NIMBYs. I remember having a neighbor who was VICIOUSLY opposed to the plan because she was convinced when it was built Those People from Oakland would come in and there’d be Crime and that’d be it for her Property Values. (I never quite got around to asking her why someone would pay $11 round-trip to break into a house in a neighborhood an hour away and then take a stolen TV home on commuter rail, but I’m sure she would’ve had a Very Rational answer…)

            Alon is right, these people need to be disempowered and ignored. The trick is just that it’s extremely hard to do that when it requires instead empowering a bureaucracy that a) currently does not actually know better & refuses to learn, and b) historically, when given that discretion, has used it to bulldoze minority neighborhoods to build freeways into the suburbs.

          • adirondacker12800

            these people need to be disempowered and ignored.
            Democracies don’t work that way.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Certainly in Britain soft right middle aged and older homeowners are like half the voters.

            Now sure America is more extreme than Britain on both sides and turnout in elections is also lower.

            But I would be extremely surprised if they were a insignificant group electorally.

            Plus I would expect the vast majority of active members of both parties are middle aged and older homeowners and I’d expect they make the vast majority of political donations – small dollar or otherwise.

          • adirondacker12800

            And they didn’t wave an autocratic wand to make it that way.

          • Alon Levy

            No, but they also didn’t decide that infinite right to sue the government is part of the definition of democracy.

          • adirondacker12800

            It’s not infinite. Frivolous at times but not infinitive. Just because you don’t like the outcomes doesn’t mean other people don’t. It’s too bad it isn’t exactly what you want.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Alon, more people live in the places that would be negatively impacted by reducing the Caltrain service back to Blossom Hill than live in places that could plausibly claim to have been negatively impacted by the entire French LGV network.

            That makes it politically plausible for the French to push back on the NIMBYs much more aggressively.

          • Onux

            RIchard, as always you make the chicken vs. egg argument in the case of Bay Area rail service. Part of the reason there are no riders is because there is no good service, so lack of current riders should not be an argument against service. There are plenty of places in the world that run basic frequency rail service to places with similar population/density as the greater south bay. 1 TPH each to Monterey, Salinas, Hollister is reasonable, combining to 3 TPH San Jose-Oak-Sac (which then split to 1 TPH Auburn, Elk Grove, Yuba City (or Folsom?).

            At this service level continuing through is better than transferring in SJ; its not as if you have a 1 TPH train/bus meeting a 12 TPH line, where its foolish to try and extend one trip. The joint demand on the tails will roughly match the demand on the trunk, and it gives people who need it a single seat ride to the East Bay. It also allows a cross platform transfer to Caltrain for those going to SF, instead of one side of the Bay getting cross platform and the other requiring changing platforms.

            I am sure you will note that the places that provide service this way and get reasonable ridership do things very differently than US transit agencies (adherence to Takt, level boarding, punctual service, etc.) In this case you area as always correct.

          • Onux

            “these people need to be disempowered and ignored.
            Democracies don’t work that way.”

            Actually, that is exactly how democracies work, at least in the case of unpopular policy issues. There is a vote, one side wins, and the other side loses / doesn’t get what they want.

            For issues that are not as unpopular, it is more likely that a compromise will be reached in order to get enough votes. The question becomes are the Nimbys a vocal minority exploiting the courts and existing law, or would a more sizable minority/majority oppose more building in the Bay Area.

          • Matthew Hutton

            If a political party/representative wants to win seats again in a given area then they can’t steamroll a project though that local people object to.

            Certainly where I live most people are happy enough with new projects as long as the following are met:
            * There’s enough parking
            * It doesn’t cause anti social behaviour (and drug problems are avoided in working class areas)
            * House prices aren’t reduced significantly in absolute terms
            * There’s enough sewer capacity/school places
            * They don’t cause significantly worse traffic
            * The project isn’t likely to cause issues with flooding
            * The disruption during construction is countered by community benefits from the new project

            A transit project and well designed new housing should be able to meet these sorts of criteria with minimal fuss and extra spending.

          • Alon Levy

            Nordic political parties constantly win elections by requiring rich localities to zone for more housing in exchange for getting a subway connection.

            And in the US, you can even see the split in citywide vs. local voting. In San Francisco, citywide elections are repeatedly won by YIMBYs, in elections in which both sides campaign on their housing preference (YIMBY or NIMBY) – but local ones, with a democratic deficit from hell, are won by NIMBYs instead. The people who are being steamrolled are not the representatives of the community; they’re the annoying scolds who most community members hate.

          • Henry Miller

            > If a political party/representative wants to win seats again in a given area then they can’t steamroll a project though that local people object to.

            Unless they can get it done and the benefits become obvious before their term is up. We need to figure out how to build good things faster. (this is not an easy problem, it might not even be possible)

          • Matthew Hutton

            @Alon, building a subway to richer areas in exchange for more low income housing will almost certainly meet points 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7. And I’d expect as Scandinavia is low crime and well governed that points 2 and 4 are likely to be met as well. So overall it seems like a good exchange.

            With regards to YIMBYs winning city-wide but not locally that makes sense. People agree San Francisco should have more housing but not in their backyard 😃.

            However that also backs most voters being soft NIMBYs and not hard NIMBYs. Deal with their likely concerns and do good projects that benefit the existing community and provide more housing and you’ve got a winner.

            @Henry, sounds like the projects need to be sold better so the benefits are clearer before the construction is finished – and perhaps to adjust the construction so it annoys people less. My experience is that government officials are very bad at selling their projects to the community. Additionally construction workers can often have poor people skills – e.g not masking during COVID when everyone else was.

          • adirondacker12800

            There is a vote, one side wins, and the other side loses / doesn’t get what they want.
            Disempowering and ignoring isn’t that.

      • Bryan Anderson

        Responding to this sub-thread as a whole, I agree that meeting California’s housing needs doesn’t depend in the slightest on extending the sprawl an inch south of its current endpoint (and doing so should probably just be illegal), and thus that frequent S-Bahn-style service isn’t needed south of there. That’s kind of the point of my question: how to power a long, infrequent, low-density RegionalBahn-style tail of a frequent, high-density S-Bahn line? Why is it better to use a diesel loco for this than batteries (with or without IMC)?

        Side note, I think the frequent S-Bahn-style electrified service should go to Blossom Hill, not stop at Tamien (hand-waving away the UPRR electrification-hostility and the Caltrain capital project incompetence). Both Blossom Hill and Capitol are within the built-up area of the San Jose suburbs, and both are surrounded by huge areas of shopping centers and/or industrial properties which all ought to become high-density mixed-use TOD.

        • Matthew Hutton

          Having some trains that are quick would help too. Even with diesel trains you should be able to average 65mph or so with a 100mph top speed.

        • Onux


          Re the question “How to power an RegionalBahn tail to an S-Bahn (specifically S of San Jose):

          The answer is probably just to use whatever you are already using. If the line is electrified for other reasons (as in the case of much of the NEC) then use EMUs. If you have diesels keep using them. It is probably not worth buying battery powered trains vs diesel because of the capital cost (as Alon notes, although Max has different opinions).

          Note in the case of batteries this post began as *In Motion Charging* for trains. Batteries can’t store enough energy to run the train for a full shift, so you have to be under wire part of the time to re-charge. In the specific case of the Bay Area that means BEMUs are a non-starter, since as we all agree this low frequency service should not continue north as Caltrain, and I doubt Blossom Hill to Diridon is long enough to recharge.

          As I note above to Richard I feel through service as a tail of the Capital Corridor (which is already a RB/RE style service) is warranted. As there is enough traffic to justify electrifying San Jose-Oak-Sacramento, this would then raise the question of is it better to use BEMUs for the tail (possibly with extending wire to Morgan Hill/Gilroy or however far is needed to make the battery range work) or truncate the extension to a shuttle until electrification of the whole route becomes viable. But you have to get to the point of the electrification first. Otherwise just keep using whatever the main route is using for the tail.

  16. Reedman Bassoon

    Would it have been cheaper for Caltrain to go with batteries rather than with their super-expensive electrification?
    Is the payoff for Caltrain only going to be when HSR starts running down the same corridor?

    • Richard Mlynarik

      Would it have been cheaper for [consultant captured, feather-bedding, user-hostile US “public” “transportation” agency] to go with [batshit solution] rather than with their [consultant profiting, feather-bedded, maximal-fraud] super-expensive [other solution]?

      It simply doesn’t matter!

      There is a Project.
      There are earmarks to Fund the Project.
      The Project budget becomes as much as the available earmarks.
      The Project “budget” runs “over” due to “unforseen circumstances”.
      The Project “schedule” slips for years.
      Further funding earmarks are “necessary” to “complete” the Project.
      [Repeat “budget” and “schedule” failures as often as possible.]

      Note that IT DOESN’T MATTER whether 25 kilovolts is involved!

      The process is technology neutral! As long as they can keep actual professionals with actual expertise excluded — which they do –, and as long as they can rig the procurement processes — which is the entire reason any of these people exist — then they can turn anything at all, no matter how superficially good it may have seemed, into the purest shit.

  17. plaws0

    Big Batman fan here … Batman from 1966, not any of the recent crap. OK, LEGO Batman was petty awesome. Loved the Batmobile (obvs) and the Batcopter and the Batboat … The only Bat-device I don’t like is the Bat-tery. Because of the way city transportation works, I can see ETBs having limited off-wire capability for emergency use … but for rail? Come on. You’ve already got a huge investment in RoW, ballast, track structure – #JustStringWires and be done with it.

    If the claim is made that there isn’t enough “density” to support electrifying a service, then look at 1) why you aren’t running more trains (or buses in the case of urban stuff) and 2) whether or not you are using the correct solution for that particular line. Maybe the line isn’t justified *at all*.

    We’re used to heat here in July but the forecast high for tomorrow is 42 C.

    “Hand me down … the Shark … Repellent …Bat Spray”

  18. Reedman Bassoon

    One reason for electric buses not mentioned is “hills”. San Francisco has had overhead wire electric buses for decades because diesel buses are not able to rationally handle the terrain.

    P.S. a while back I was in Madrid and saw their battery electric buses, both “full size” and “mini” in action. The mini’s were good because they could maneuver the small, winding streets better. I assume Madrid figured out how to charge the fleet efficiently and regularly. (My memory is that the mini’s came from Turkey.)

    • Tonami Playman

      Regarding San Francisco’s hills, diesel busses in in the 50s peak of streetcar removals could not handle the terrain, but today’s turbo diesel busses with automatic transmissions & hill descent controls can handle them fine albeit a lot noisier. I’m glad the geography forced San Francisco to keep its ETBs, because even with modern diesel buses, navigating such steep hills puts the engines in their most polluting operating regime.

  19. Martin Peter Wright

    Regarding the cost of trolleybus wiring, it’s not true that wiring cost is linear when IMC is used. Let’s imagine the cost of installed power on a system is X and the overhead wires cost is Y. A modernised system with IMC and 50% wiring is planned. The wiring cost is reduced to (X + Y/2). Still a worthwhile saving but probably more like 75% of the original rather than 50%, because you still need all the installed that you had previously.

  20. Pingback: Who Learns from Who? | Pedestrian Observations

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