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Saft Providing NiMH Batteries to Alstom and Lohr for Hybrid Tram Applications

Translohr tram in L’Aquila, Italy

Saft has developed an integrated NiMH battery system to support a different twist on hybrid trams: trams that can switch the source of traction power between overhead catenaries and on-board batteries.

Trams—urban light rail vehicles—come in bi-current versions that are able to use the different current flow from city tram lines as well as electrified rail lines (e.g., 600/750 Volt DC and 15 kV 16 2/3 Hz AC) as well as diesel-hybrid versions that rely on diesel traction for operation on non-electrified tracks (such as in the suburbs).

But the city of Nice, France, which uses catenary wires on its new tramway system, wanted to keep its two historic town squares (Place Masséna and Place Garibaldi) clear of the overhead wires, and didn’t have sufficient need for a full diesel-electric system.

Alstom, the tram maker, thus needed an onboard traction battery capable of providing sufficient autonomous power for travel over those sections of track where the catenaries are not available—approximately 500 meters for each autonomous section. The system also had to be compact enough for installation in the vehicle roof.

Alstom placed a €2-million (US$2.4-million) order earlier this year with Saft for NiMH integrated traction battery systems for the CITADIS trams currently under construction for the city of Nice.

Now Lohr Industries is also interested in the Saft NiMH batteries for its Translohr rubber-wheeled tram systems in some Italian cities for the same reason: keeping medieval city centers clear of catenaries.

The 576V Saft NiMH battery system provides 80 kWh of continuous power. Each battery system incorporates an active cooling device and battery management control (BMC) for monitoring of temperature, voltage and charging conditions. The whole unit is supplied ready to plug and play in a custom built tray complete with power and communication capabilities and all necessary safety features.

In addition to the traction batteries, Saft is also supplying 24V on-board MATRICS MRX rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries to provide backup support for electrical systems such as doors and communications.



Since buses must stop/pause at pre-assigned bus stops at a regular basis, has someone thought of an overhead charging in combination with an ultra capacitor storage and electric motor propulsion system. Ultra capacitors charge very quickly and can operate over millions of cycles without degragation. This system could probably be built with todays technology. Could someone more in the know comment on the economics?

Tomas Lattes Romeiro

I would like some technical inforamtion, suchs as purchasing and operation costs, audio polution and gas emissions, and fuel consumption for as many models of Trams as possible, hybrid or eletrical.

Sincerely, Tomas Lattes Romeiro
UNICAMP, Universtity of Campinas


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Jim Parker

These developments are to be encouraged because ultimatley they will lead to designs that are supportive of the envionment both air quality and visual.
What is the charging time for the Nice NiMH batteries?

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