Train Batteries


Steel Rails, chasing sunshine ’round the bend

Winding through the trees like a ribbon in the wind

I don’t mind not knowing what lies down the track

‘Cause I’m looking out ahead

To keep my mind from turning back

— Chorus from the song “Steel Rails” by Louisa Branscomb

Worldwide, passengers traveled a total of 3.7 trillion kilometers by train in 2016. That same year, more than 9.9 trillion tonne kilometers of freight were shipped. The vast majority of passenger kilometers traveled, 80%, were in Asia and Oceania1; the fewest were in America, which includes both the United States and Canada. Two regions were nearly evenly split on the percentage of tonne kilometers of freight shipped by rail: Asia and Oceania with 37% and America with 31%. The Russian Federation followed with 23%. A total of 1.1 million rail lines allow for the transport of passengers and freight worldwide, more than a third of which are in America, followed by Asia and Oceania (28%) and Europe (24%).2

Whether a train is transporting passengers or freight, all use batteries either as backup power, for engine starting, as storage systems to capture energy recovered from braking or to power the trains themselves. Today’s market size shows the estimated sales of train batteries in 2018 and projected for 2025. The market is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 5.15% during this time period as more people around the world become dependent on rail transport.

Currently, lead-acid batteries are the predominate battery used in rolling stock, but as lithium-ion batteries become more economical and efficient and demand for maintenance-free batteries increases, they are expected to be the type of battery most used by the end of this time period. In the future, demand for environmentally-friendly bullet trains and autonomous trains with advanced features such as automated doors, infotainment systems, and passenger information systems will spur sales of train batteries as these types of trains require significantly more power.

1 Excludes Russia and Turkey
2 Includes Turkey

Geographic reference: World
Year: 2018 and 2025
Market size: $470.5 million and $703.2 million, respectively
Sources: “From a Market Size of USD 470.5 million in 2018, The Train Battery Market is Projected to Reach USD 703.2 Million by 2025, at a CAGR of 5.15%,” Cison PR Newswire, October 18, 2018 available online here; “Rail Transport in the World,” International Union of Railways, September 7, 2018 available online here; Fred Lambert, “Bombardier Unveils a New Battery Powered Train,” Electrek, September 14, 2018 available online here; “Rail,” available online here; and “Wayside Energy Storage Systems,” available online here.
Image source: axiepix, “train-tracks-winter-snow-trees-613386,” Pixabay, January 27, 2015 available online here.

Freight by Rail

Moving large volumes of freight over long distances is an energy intensive proposal and something we do very regularly these days. In fact, with the rise of globalization humanity is now moving more over greater distances than ever before. Moving cargo by rail is the second most efficient means of transporting it—the first being transport over water. Coal is the commodity whose movement on railroads accounts for the largest percentage of tonnage moved by Class I Railroad operators in the United States (44%) and the largest percentage of gross revenue, when divided out by commodity type, for these operators (24%).

Today’s market size is the tonnage carried by U.S. Class I Railroads in 2010 and the value of the corresponding gross revenue earned for their transportation. The revenue number does not adjust for such things as incentive rebates offered by the railroad operators. U.S. Class I Railroads in 2010 were the following: BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Grand Trunk Corporation, Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern Combined Railroad Subsidiaries, Soo Line Corporation, and Union Pacific Railroad.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2010
Market size: 1.85 billion tons and $57.44 billion in gross revenues
Source: “Class I Railroad Statistics,” June 17, 2011, a report produced by the Policy and Economics Department of the Association of American Railroads. Here is a link to the report.
Original source: Association of American Railroads

Rail Travel in the United States

Passanger-Miles on Rail

Today is another day of travel for millions of Americans as they head home after the Thanksgiving Holiday. So, here’s another market size related to travel, this time, travel by rail. Rail passenger-miles are presented here for intercity rail commuting. These data do not include commuter rail within a metropolitan area. This mode of transportation saw a sharp decline in the 1960s, a decline which had been in progress through the entirety of the 20th century. The chart shows passenger-miles traveled by rail each decade since 1960. This chart shows quite a different pattern than is seen when charting all other passenger travel modes tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. A few days ago, we charted air travel passenger-miles, by way of comparison.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2008
Market size: 6,179 million passenger-miles
Source: “Table 1-37: U.S. Passenger Miles (Millions),” Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics, available online here.