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Long Island Rail Road puts battery-operated cars on the back burner

Frank Franklin II

The Long Island Rail Road has put plans to implement battery-operated train cars on the back burner for now.

If the plans hadn’t fallen through, the LIRR would have been among the first railroad in the country to operate commuter trains on battery power.

The “battery electric multiple units'' would have allowed the trains to run on third-rail power where available and automatically switch to battery power on the sections where the railroad currently runs diesel trains.

A feasibility study found the project would be too expensive and inconvenient for the railroad to implement in the near future. Retrofitting the current cars with batteries would cost $26 million a pair. That’s more than it would cost to buy two brand new train cars.

Officials said they’re not giving up on the plan. The technology could be used in their new fleet of M9A cars, but that’s several years off.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.