Caltrain to Pilot First-in-the-Nation Bi-Level Dual Electric and Battery Powered Train to Expand Zero-Emission Service

California Transportation Commission approves funding allocation for one Stadler battery equipped electric train and related maintenance, charging facility upgrades to help with the transition to fully electrified service and expand zero emission service to non-electrified tracks 

Today, the California Transportation Commission approved the allocation of funds from an $80 million award from the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) for one battery-equipped electric multiple unit train (BEMU) and the associated R&D so that Caltrain will be operable with zero-emission trains on both electrified service area of the corridor as well as the portion of the corridor from Tamien Station in San Jose to Gilroy that does not yet have overhead electrified lines. 

The BEMU train, which will be purchased on a contract option with Stadler, Caltrain’s electric train manufacturer, is an EMU train with additional energy storage capacity. The BEMU will charge while the train runs on overhead power in the electrified service areas and then use battery charge to travel “off-wire” on non-electrified track areas. This will lead the way for Caltrain to operate a fully zero-emission service in the future. Before this option, Caltrain would have had to use diesel trains on the non-electrified corridor. The funding award from CalSTA also covers the cost of testing at the Transportation Test Center in Pueblo, Colo., and upgrades to the San Jose Central Maintenance Facility and Gilroy layover and station area to facilitate charging and maintenance.  

The demonstration of the BEMU in-service will be the first time this bi-level technology is in operation on a commuter train anywhere in the United States. The trainset is also expected to be tested in other intercity and regional rail corridors, as feasible. 

“California continues to lead the transition to a clean, electrified transportation system, this time with the nation’s first battery-electric multiple unit passenger rail train,” said California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin. “This efficient, state-of-the-art train – made possible by an award through our Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program – will lead to improved service for riders and cleaner air between San Francisco and Gilroy, as well as serve as a demonstration train for expanded battery-electric intercity rail service in the future.” 

“Today’s unanimous CTC vote was electrifying both figurately and literally as we fund improvements to a corridor that continues to lead the way to improve the lives for tens of thousands of daily commuters and to show the way for other transit systems throughout the country,” said CTC Vice Chair Carl Guardino.  

“We’re excited to be the first in the nation to pilot this bi-level hybrid electric and battery service to extend our zero-emission service beyond our electrified service areas,” said Jeff Gee, Caltrain Board Chair. “With the BEMU we will not only create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly service, but also faster and more reliable travel times for riders.” 

“This is innovation in motion that will improve the lives and health of our residents who use Caltrain and those who live and work along the rail lines,” said Caltrain Board Member and Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.  

“Silicon Valley has a reputation for first of its kind innovations, and our transportation sector is no different,” said Mayor of San Jose Matt Mahan. “This project will pave the way for Caltrain to retire their diesel fleet and operate a fully zero-emission service for future generations” 

“Gilroy is onboard for a modern rail service, with all its comforts and amenities” said Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley. “I’m excited that in the future, we will have zero-emission trains running through South County. Although one in many necessary steps forward yet to come, today’s decision puts South Santa Clara County that much closer to joining in electrified train service of the greater Bay Area.” 

 “This electric and battery-powered train investment will allow our commuter rail corridor to modernize, create greater system efficiencies, and better integrate the southern segment of the corridor that is not electrified,” said Morgan Hill Mayor Mark Turner. “We are grateful to Caltrain staff, the California Transportation Commission, and CalSTA for supporting this innovative effort that will improve train service, reduce greenhouse gases, and enhance the sustainability of commuter rail service for the residents in South Silicon Valley.” 

“Stadler is proud to continue our partnership with Caltrain and our shared mission of helping California provide zero emission travel” said Martin Ritter, CEO of Stadler US. “With additional double-deck EMUs and this first-of-its-kind BEMU for Caltrain, Stadler is able to expand our overall portfolio for the US market, especially in the zero-emission product line.” 

The current demonstration plan will have the BEMU charge while in operations between San Francisco and San Jose, and then operate using battery power on non-electrified tracks between San Jose and Gilroy, with intermittent demonstration trips to Salinas. The goal is to show successful service operations and learn from the implementation to provide a roadmap for future BEMU operations and procurements. 

If successful, BEMUs could replace aging diesel locomotives on non-electrified tracks. The benefits of this would not only be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality, but also significant service upgrades. This includes potential improved service times to Gilroy resulting from better performance of the BEMU compared to diesel locomotives, improved travel times on the entire corridor and decreased service costs resulting from removing diesel locomotives from service, and increased reliability should overhead power systems fail or utilities experience outages. 

The demonstration of this technology has wide-ranging benefits for rail operations throughout the country. There are currently no bi-level off-wire battery dual mode commuter trains in operations in the United States, and the potential of this technology could make the transition to electrified service easier for other operators by not requiring full overhead line coverage throughout entire train corridors.   

The train will go into operations after additional testing and certifications from regulatory agencies. The 4-car vehicle consists of three passenger cars and one battery-head, which houses the battery and power equipment. 

Earlier this month, the Caltrain Board also approved exercising the options on its contract with Stadler, for four electric multiple unit (EMU) trains to replace aging diesel trains. These EMU trains along with the BEMU demonstration will allow Caltrain to run over 90% of its service with electric trains, benefiting riders and communities throughout the corridor. 

In advance of electrified service in fall of 2024, Caltrain held a public event for riders late last month to tour the new EMU trains, which was attended by more than 4,000 visitors. The next tour of the EMU trains will be in San Francisco on September 23, 2023.  


About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with commute service to Gilroy. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad has provided the community with more than 150 years of continuous passenger service. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the corridor, reduce diesel emissions by 97 percent by 2040 and add more service to more stations.  

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Media Contact: Dan Lieberman, 650.622.2492