STADLER has signed a contract with Utah State University (USU) and its Aspire Engineering Research Centre to develop a battery-powered EMU for the US market, based on the manufacturer’s Flirt Akku design.

Over 110 Flirt Akku BEMUs have been ordered to operate regional services in Germany, and a two-car train tailored to the US market will now be developed to bring battery traction to North America for the first time, Stadler says.

This will require extensive research and development work to adapt the train to US infrastructure and national regulations, according to the manufacturer.

Stadler will concentrate on the design and production of a prototype trains, while Aspire will focus on the development of trackside charging infrastructure, workforce development and the potential impact of battery traction in Utah.

Aspire stands for Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification. The engineering research centre is funded by the US National Science Foundation to investigate the challenges of “the widespread electrification of all vehicles,” according to Aspire.

An extensive programme of test runs will be conducted with the Flirt Akku prototype, which the partners hope will provide them with “important insights for the decarbonisation of American passenger transport through the use of battery-powered trains.”

Testing is planned to take place at Stadler’s plant in Salt Lake City.

Aspire has been awarded funding by the Utah state legislature for the project, which aims to maximise workforce development and economic impact as well as deliver improvements in air quality.

“Success will bring design and manufacturing jobs to Utah,” says Aspire director, Dr Regan Zane. “It will also chart the path to electrified commuter and light rail systems along the Wasatch Front,” the region of Utah containing the cities of cities of Salt Lake City, Bountiful, Layton and Ogden.

“The battery-electric train solution will improve air quality and reduce operating costs while supporting shared charging infrastructure with trucks, buses and cars,” says Zane.

“With little to no electrified routes in the North American public rail transit system, a battery train is a great zero-emission alternative to diesel-powered vehicles,” says Stadler US CEO, Mr Martin Ritter.

“After a contract for a hydrogen-powered Flirt for California, we are now excited to bring our battery solution to the United States.”

“The Utah legislature is committed to developing strong public-private partnerships like this, that result in innovative solutions to critical issues facing our state,” says Mr Mike Schultz, majority leader of the Utah House of Representatives.

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