A Midland Metro tram, in Spain, is currently being fitted with hi- tech batteries allowing it to run over stretches of track with no overhead power cables.
Tram 18 was split in two and loaded onto flatbed lorries to make the journey from Wednesbury to the factory in Zaragoza, Spain, where it was made.
Tram manufacturer CAF will then fit the Urbos 3 with two lithium ion cells and undertake exhaustive tests before returning it to Britain in the autumn.
The batteries will allow the trams to operate over short distances without the need for overhead cables and equipment – a good move in architecturally sensitive areas like Victoria Square. It also obviates the need for disruptive and expensive installation work.
Urbos 3 trams already run catenary-free along some sections of the tram networks in the Spanish cities of Zaragoza, Seville and Cadiz but use supercapacitors to provide on- board energy storage.
However these would be unsuitable for trams using the extension being built from New Street to Centenary Square because of the steep hill on Pinfold Street leading into Victoria Square.
The newly available lithium ion batteries are now robust enough to handle the gradients and can be fitted to the fleet in time for the opening of the Centenary Square extension.