Cutting-edge hybrid S700 streetcar is game-changer for Charlotte Area Transit SystemAs they planned a streetcar line extension to connect the city’s east and west sides, the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) sought an innovative solution to help build community and meet new sustainability goals. CATS also wanted to maintain a catenary-free zone in the new section of the CityLYNX Gold Line that passes through the central business district. The answer was the Siemens Mobility S700 hybrid streetcar that can run on battery power and provide emissions-free transportation for Charlotte’s future. “The S700 modern streetcar has really been a game changer – not only for us from an operational standpoint at CATS, but for our customers,” said John Lewis, CEO, CATS.
Expandable, modular onboard energy storage system design allows easy updatesThe industry-leading Siemens Mobility onboard energy storage system (OESS) enables continuous operation of cells and charging or discharging in minutes. The OESS uses a roof-mounted lithium titanate battery system to store energy that is used for off-wire operation. Energy storage and delivery is controlled by integrated DC/DC converters and an onboard battery management system (BMS). Changeover between on-wire and off-wire operation is always at the discretion of the operator and takes place unnoticeably when the streetcar is stopped at a station. When running on wire, the streetcars are electrically powered from an overhead catenary system. The energy-saving battery technology recharges when the streetcar is connected to the 750 VDC catenary. It also stores renewable power from the innovative braking system. An expandable, modular design allows the OESS to be updated as battery technology evolves.
Commuters in Charlotte are “really excited about the sleek streetcars, modern level boarding, comfortable seating and the streetcar’s ability to move throughout the city even within traffic,” according to CATS CEO John Lewis. The S700 design elevates the overall riding experience with features such as large passenger windows that increase visibility, an interior surveillance system that improves passenger safety, and an unobstructed floor layout that allows more space for bicycle storage and wheelchairs. End-to-end low-floor access for all passengers makes it one of the most ADA-friendly vehicles of its kind in today’s market. Each CATS streetcar has 56 seats and, including standing room, can accommodate 199 riders.
CATS also notes that operational performance has surpassed expectations in Charlotte. “The performance of the vehicle is greater than even our wildest dreams in that we’re running several miles off wire,” CEO John Lewis said. “Originally, we thought we would get about a quarter to a third of a mile, but the performance has been fantastic.” While the S700 can reach speeds of 60 mph, CATS maintains a 25 mph speed limit. The S700 hybrid streetcar is based on the proven platform of the Siemens S70 and S700 light rail vehicles (LRVs). Performance enhancements include traffic light preemption and an automatic passenger counter with enhanced 3D infrared sensor technology.
As an early adopter of hybrid streetcars, Charlotte is a leader in urban transportation planning and the importance of transit infrastructure in economic development. CATS worked hand in hand with Siemens Mobility throughout the manufacturing process to make sure the hybrid streetcars address the needs of both the transit agency and the community. Moving forward with the hybrid technology allowed CATS to meet the expectations of the businesses and neighborhoods along the corridor. According to CATS CEO John Lewis, the ability to go off wire through the central business district was an incredible amenity because it lessened the impact of the streetcar line. The new technology also allowed CATS to take a first step in the City of Charlotte’s move toward zero emissions and zero carbon footprint by 2050. Charlotte’s population has grown 21.3% since 2010, with many residents seeking sustainable transit options.
Charlotte’s S700 hybrid streetcars are Buy America compliant and were built at the Siemens Mobility rail manufacturing hub in Sacramento, CA. The six new S700 hybrid streetcars join the CATS fleet that also includes 42 S70 LRVs.
The S700 modern streetcar has really been a game changer – not only for us from an operational standpoint at CATS, but for our customers. The performance has been fantastic.John Lewis, CEO, Charlotte Area Transit System