Italy rolls out ‘tribrid’ battery trains in a first for Europe
Image credit: Hitachi Rail
Twenty trains that can run on battery, electric and diesel power are now operating on railway lines around Italy. The Hitachi-built fleet is the first of its kind in Europe.
The completion of these trains - branded as ‘Blues’ by their operator, Trenitalia - concludes the first tranche of an order that sits within a €1.23bn framework agreement between Hitachi Rail and Trenitalia for up to 135 Masaccio trains that will run across Sicily, Sardinia, Calabria, Tuscany, Lazio and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The Masaccio’s cutting-edge hybrid technology allows the train to seamlessly draw from battery, electric and diesel power. While Hitachi Rail already uses diesel-electric hybrid technology – pioneered on the UK’s Intercity Express fleets – this is the first time batteries have been deployed as a major power source on a train fleet for commercial use anywhere in Europe.
The ability to recharge while in service using the pantograph or traction motors means it can deliver seamless green journeys without cutting availability. Hitachi says the technology is slashing carbon emissions and fuel costs by 50 per cent and is compatible to run across mainland Europe.
Running on battery power in non-electrified urban areas eliminates the air pollution associated with diesel trains, while also reducing noise.
The Masaccio train’s Driver Advisory System also helps cut emissions by identifying the optimal speed for timetable reliability and reduced energy consumption. In a further boost for sustainability, the trains are made with 93 per cent recyclable materials.
Around 40 per cent of rail lines across the European continent are not electrified, and more than half of European trains are entirely powered by diesel fuel. In Italy alone there are more than 4,000km of non-electrified track.
The long-term case for battery trains is especially strong on branch lines or in areas where geographical or topological features make electrification very hard to achieve. Hitachi says the battery power provides the Masaccio trains with added power and acceleration to tackle tough gradients, while the flexibility of the design allows the interior customisation to suit everything from high-density commuter journeys to offering more space for leisure equipment, such as snowboards and mountain bikes.
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