vegetable oil powered train

British-made hybrid cars to travel on train powered by vegetable oil

Image credit: PA

A train powered by low-carbon fuel derived from vegetable oil will soon be transporting hybrid cars built in the UK to the European mainland.

The Department of Transport is working with rail freight operator DB Cargo to use the sustainable hydro-treated vegetable oil (HVO) fuel in one of its locomotives to purportedly cut carbon emissions by up to 90 per cent compared to diesel.

The train, named ‘I’m a climate hero’, is seen as a step in the transition towards the government’s legally binding goal of net zero by 2050.

DB Cargo is the largest rail freight operating company in the country and has been trialling and expanding its use of HVO as a way to reduce carbon emissions in the short term.

This new service using HVO will transport Toyotas built in Derby to continental Europe through the Channel Tunnel and import Toyotas on its return leg.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “We are boosting British business while cutting carbon. This is what building back greener is all about.

“Trains are one of the most eco-friendly ways to transport goods and, through ingenuity and innovation, DB Cargo are leading the way in making it even greener.”

However, despite the rhetoric, MPs have recently criticised the government for lacking “strategic direction” in its efforts to decarbonise the rail sector, and while HVO may be a quick fix, a full programme of electrification is what’s needed for it to become carbon neutral.

Other alternatives include retrofitting diesel-powered trains with batteries that would allow them to run on low-carbon electricity even on rail lines which have not been electrified.

DB Cargo CEO Andrea Rossi said: “We are very excited at the prospect of working with Toyota to trial the use of HVO on its services to and from Europe.

“HVO is one of the world’s purest and greenest fuels and has an important role to play in helping DB Cargo UK and its rail customers decarbonise their operations.

“This will be the first time we have used HVO on an automotive service and one bound for the continent. It’s a first on many levels for us.”

Leon van der Merwe, vice president supply chain, Toyota Motor Europe, said: “As a company, we are dedicated to making continuous progress towards carbon neutrality and this includes seeking ways to reduce emissions from manufacturing, vehicle use and logistics.

“By using this new rail freight multi-modal opportunity, we are helping to ensure our low-emission hybrid electric vehicles built at our British Burnaston plant can be transported to our customers in an increasingly sustainable way.”

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