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Batteries instead of diesel – first trains in passenger service in Ortenau

On April 8th, operation of the Siemens Mireo Plus B Battery train fleet started in Baden-Württemberg I © Siemens Mobility

Innovative technology along with even more climate protection and greater comfort and convenience for passengers – regional rail transport on Network 8 (“Ortenau”) is rising to a new level on April 8, 2024. Today’s the day the first four battery-powered trains from Siemens Mobility begin regular service, marking a premiere in Germany. The official start was celebrated by an exclusive inaugural trip from Offenburg to Oberkirch and back, and was accompanied by Winfried Hermann, Minister of Transport for the state of Baden-Württemberg, together with numerous invited guests. “We are writing a new chapter in railway history with this opening trip,” commented Minister Hermann. “Thanks to the battery hybrid drive of the Mireo Plus B, trains operating in the Ortenau region as of today are more climate-friendly than those using diesel. Baden-Württemberg is a pioneer with innovative train technology. All trains should be climate-friendly. We are relying on alternative, climate-friendly solutions wherever there are still no overhead power lines.”

SWEG CEO Tobias Harms said: “SWEG not only stands for quality, but also for innovation. We are especially pleased to now be able to make these innovative trains available to our passengers and will be demonstrating our role as a reliable partner to both the state of Baden-Württemberg and Siemens Mobility.”

Proud of the project: representatives of the land transport authority bwegt, operator SWEG, the state of Baden-Württemberg and Siemens at the inauguration of the battery plant on 8 April I © Siemens Mobility

Albrecht Neumann, CEO Rolling Stock at Siemens Mobility, said: “We are proud that our first fleet of Mireo Plus B battery trains is now going into passenger service. We would like to thank the state of Baden-Württemberg and SWEG for their trust and confidence in our innovative and environmentally friendly technology. By expanding rail transport, we can make an active contribution to climate protection. The introduction of these highly advanced trains, which can operate up to 120 kilometers on battery power, marks an important step towards a sustainable future.”

Where the new trains are running

The hybrid trains will initially be used on the routes from Offenburg to Bad Griesbach and from Offenburg to Hornberg. They replace the diesel-powered Regio Shuttle RS1. Plans call for gradually extending hybrid service on other routes in the network. In preparation for introducing the Siemens Mobility trains, the network timetable was adjusted in mid-December 2023. Since then, trains in the Kinzig valley, for example, have been running straight through from Offenburg via Hausach to Hornberg without requiring changes. And passengers traveling to Freudenstadt usually have to change trains in Hausach, since the battery trains can serve the Freudenstadt station on the regular schedule only when an additional switch connection has been installed there.

Travelling through the Black Forest on battery power – the traction batteries are also recharged during the journey under the overhead line I © Siemens Mobility

As a result of the timetable change in December 2023, passenger service has been improved by closing previous gaps in the schedule. Trains now operate at least on an hourly basis on all routes from early morning to evening. “With the new network and the new trains, we are increasing the service frequency and providing higher capacity. Passengers now have more comfortable and attractive options for changing trains and boarding – whether in the cities or country,” noted Minister of Transport Hermann.

Due to a missing switch, the Regioshuttle 1 diesel trains will continue to come to Freudenstadt for the time being I © UTM

Innovative trains: The Mireo Plus B

Powered by green electricity, the Mireo Plus B battery-electric multiple-unit trains produce no emissions and are extremely quiet. Thanks to their battery hybrid drive, they can be used on routes with and without overhead power lines. In the future, when they operate throughout the entire network and replace the diesel-powered Regio Shuttle, they will slash consumption of diesel by around 1.8 million liters per year. In battery operation and under real conditions, the Mireo Plus B has a range of up to 120 kilometers. Its batteries can be recharged from the overhead line and with braking energy. The battery system, installed beneath the car floor, includes two battery containers holding lithium-ion batteries (with LTO = Lithium Titanate Oxide chemnistry), supplied by Toshiba, with a long service life of up to 15 years. The trainsets have 120 seats and are equipped with a toilet, air conditioning and spacious special use areas.

Technology, Maintenance and Operation

Manufacturer Siemens Mobility won Baden-Württemberg’s open-technology call for tenders for Network 8 with its Mireo Plus B design. This led to Baden- Württemberg’s State Agency for Rail Vehicles (SFBW) ordering 27 Mireo Plus B two- car, battery trainsets from Siemens Mobility. 

Three of these vehicles are intended for the Hermann-Hesse railway in Baden Württemberg. A total of 20 vehicles were originally ordered at the beginning of 2020. We reported here:

A total of 83 Mireo Plus B vehicles were sold for Germany and Denmark, including 27 for Ortenau, 31 for the East Brandenburg network, 7 for West Jutland in Denmark, 16 for S-Bahn Mitteldeutschland and two for STL as leasing vehicles.

The trains will be serviced and maintained by Siemens Mobility for SWEG for about 30 years in the newly built rail maintenance depot in Offenburg that opened in June 2023. Condition-based, predictive maintenance of the trains is made possible by the use of the cloud-based Siemens Mobility Railigent X Suite application. Thanks to advanced algorithms and data analytics, train operations are optimized and potential disruptions are detected and handled before they lead to breakdowns. This ensures 100 percent availability of the fleet. The charging infrastructure for the new trains was installed by SWEG Schienenwege GmbH at the Achern and Biberach (Baden) train stations.

During rush hour, the Mireo Plus B battery trains are also used in double traction I © Siemens Mobility

Network 8 and SWEG

Following the timetable change made in mid-December 2023, Network 8 (“Ortenau”) includes the following routes: Offenburg – Hornberg/Freudenstadt; Offenburg – Bad Griesbach; Offenburg – Achern – Ottenhöfen; and Biberach (Baden) – Oberharmersbach-Riersbach. In addition, the reactivated Hermann Hesse line between Calw and Renningen is planned to become part of the network as of 2025. All in all, Network 8 handles around two-and-a-half million train kilometers per year. The state of Baden-Württemberg awarded operation of the network to SWEG until December 2038.

Overview of the Ortenau S-Bahn route network I © SWEG

Südwestdeutsche Landesverkehrs-GmbH is a company headquartered in Lahr, Black Forest, that operates urban and interurban bus service as well as local freight and passenger rail transport in the state of Baden-Württemberg and neighboring regions. In 2018, the company completed the merger of the Hohenzollerische Landesbahn (HzL), based in Hechingen. The former Abellio Rail Baden-Württemberg GmbH, which now operates as SWEG Bahn Stuttgart GmbH, has also been part of the SWEG Group since the beginning of 2022. More than 1,800 employees work at SWEG.