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AGC battery train



Rail Stories

AGC battery train: innovating a sustainable future

As a leader in sustainable mobility, Bombardier Transportation has introduced a variety of green innovations that reduce CO2 emissions and pollution in the railway sector. One of our first sustainable mobility solutions was a dual-mode Autorail à Grande Capacité (AGC) train, designed and developed by our Crespin site in France, the AGC was the world's first hybrid train when it entered service in 2007.

With 2,473 AGC train cars in operation today, the AGC is the largest regional fleet operated in France. To help France meet its sustainability targets, we are now leveraging our Services, retrofit skills and sustainability vision to convert AGC hybrid trains to full battery power. The effort is part of France's strategy to eventually phase diesel power out of its national rail fleet

Bombardier to upgrade five AGC trains to battery power 

In January 2021, we signed a new contract to retrofit and introduce a pre-series of five AGC battery-operated trains by 2023, in collaboration with SNCF Voyageurs and five French regions including Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Hauts-de-France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Together, we will modify existing AGC trains into battery-operated trains to help decarbonise French rail transport. The idea is to convert dual-mode (catenary and diesel-powered) high capacity self-propelled trains to dual-mode battery-powered AGCs. 

This project is a response to the growing demand for emission-free solutions and these five dual-mode battery-catenary trainsets will be used as demonstrators. The range in battery mode will be at least 80 kilometres. The current range will allow the dual-mode battery-powered AGCs to perform the same missions as the current AGCs (diesel-catenary) and Bombardier wants to increase that autonomy. Bombardier is ideally positioned to carry out this greening project, since nearly 50 per cent of the diesel rail fleet in France consists of AGC trains that we built at our site in Crespin.

This project not only modernizes existing trains; it also turns them green and offers a good alternative to the costly electrification of the entire French rail network.

With 2,473 AGC train cars, the AGC is France's largest regional rail fleet.

Why battery power?

This AGC battery project is the only one that offers a "greening" transformation of existing trains, and the project will be undertaken as part of the fleet's scheduled midlife maintenance. The project also provides a unique opportunity to capitalize on existing assets and avoid unnecessary renewal of installed rolling stock fleets. But perhaps most importantly, it offers a proof of concept and a way forward to  eliminating diesel trains by 2035, a target set by the French government and SNCF. 

France hopes to use opportunities like the AGC battery upgrade to help eliminate diesel trains from its national fleet by 2035.

Prototype AGC battery trains will be introduced in five French regions including Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Sud Provence Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Hauts-de-France, Occitanie and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

It also reduces the cost of energy consumption, due to lower electricity costs compared to diesel-fueled trains. AGC battery-electric multiple units (BEMU) can store braking energy and use it for upcoming acceleration, offering major energy savings, plus 15 per cent higher peak power.

In addition to diesel operation, the performance of France's electrified network is often bound due to limitations in line power. Using battery to complement catenary-power during peak acceleration will not only improve the eco-profile of the AGC fleet, but also improve overall operations.

The battery solution and energy savings

Among the AGC fleet of 700 trains, 326 are dual-mode diesel-electric trains, making  the fleet ideal for a battery conversion project. The project will see our Services technicians remove the trains’ diesel packs and replace them with four battery units each. Then they will add the necessary high-power charger to transfer energy between batteries, traction equipment and pantograph. Next, the trains’ control system will be adapted to work with the new propulsion system. This AGC upgrade project has been selected as one of the French Government and rail sector's top strategic innovations.

The renovated battery-powered AGC trains will bring excellent energy efficiency by limiting energy lost during charging and discharging.

Excess energy that cannot be stored or regenerated during braking represents 10 to 30 per cent of the total energy used by a train. Energy is also frequently lost when running on parts of the French network that is electrified with 1.5 kVDC, where energy regeneration during braking isn’t allowed, and when the trains are running on diesel power, braking energy is also lost. Battery EMUs will be able to store the braking energy and use it when required, offering strong energy-savings and a sustainable mobility solution.

AGC battery BEMUs can store braking energy and use it for upcoming acceleration offering major energy savings, plus 15 per cent higher peak power.

AGC battery project objectives

Reduce CO2 emissions

Lower rail sector energy consumption

Limit reliance on diesel

Demonstrate feasibility of battery-powered train

Provide alternative to full rail line electrification

Battery power offers sustainable future 

Through its technological innovation activities and its strategic partnerships, Bombardier aims to offer more efficient solutions in the near future (wider range, faster recharging and more on-board capacity).

With our expertise in battery technology, we are commited to delivering innovative and high-performing products that solve today’s environmental and mobility challenges. We have a number of successful MITRAC battery projects which offer zero emissions with 100 per cent renewable energy, including our FLEXITY trams in Nanjing, our PRIMOVE-equipped trams and buses and our TALENT 3 BEMUs. This experience has taught us that we can equip any train with battery power, enabling us to provide sustainble transportation globally for all our customers. 

Visit our e-mobility and battery power webpage to learn more about our battery technology and its environmental benefits.