Emission-reducing hybrid trains to hit the tracks in Europe • The Register

Japanese manufacturer Hitachi Rail and Italy’s Trenitalia have unveiled a triple hybrid locomotive that they claim will halve carbon emissions compared to the trains they replace.

Capable of carrying passengers across the European network, the ‘Blues Train’ is powered by a combination of batteries, electric cables and diesel engines. Unveiled at the world’s largest rail transport trade fair, InnoTrans in Berlin, the train will form the first “tri-mode” fleet when it enters service in Europe later this year.

Trenitalia has agreed to buy up to 135 trains worth 1.2 billion euros (about $1.2 billion).

With a maximum speed of 160 km/h, the train can run seamlessly on electrified and non-electrified lines, according to the manufacturer. On electrified lines, it uses pantographs to draw power from overhead lines.

In the transition to non-electrified routes, mostly smaller regional routes, a combination of battery and diesel drive takes over. When it is near a train station, the batteries fully power the train, avoiding emissions including harmful nitrogen oxides and reducing noise pollution, it said. The battery can be charged while the train is running, both in diesel and electric mode.

Andrew Barr, Group CEO of Hitachi Rail, said: “The Blues train, with its groundbreaking battery hybrid technology, is an extremely important opportunity for railways across Europe to reduce their carbon emissions while improving passenger journeys. “

Neither Hitachi nor Trenitalia have offered an explanation as to why they chose to call it the Blues Train, even though the African American music genre was frequently inspired by train travel – Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train”, Elizabeth Cotton’s “Freight Train”, and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” are prime examples.

In the US, railtech provider Wabtec, shortline operator Genesee & Wyoming and Carnegie Mellon University asked Congress is considering funding a public-private partnership for R&D and commercialization initiatives that would increase rail freight utilization and decarbonize the rail freight network in America, revelation its first battery-electric freight train last year in Pittsburgh.

Electrified rail is used on less than 1 percent of US routes, but one expert estimates that 15 to 30 percent of the 90,000 to 95,000 route miles operated by the US’s Class I railroads could use it possibly be electrified.

Those who advocate trains as the future of zero-carbon travel have been keen to draw attention to hydrogen as a revolutionary fuel. German manufacturer Siemens is working with Deutsche Bahn to develop a prototype train in Germany began testing this month.

The Alstom Coradia iLint is now running on the 100 percent hydrogen rail line in Bremervörde, Germany.

In the UK, the Railway Industry Association appeal to the government throwing its weight behind a new fleet of hydrogen-powered trains to help modernize existing rolling stock.

Where all the hydrogen is supposed to come from is another question. In principle, the most abundant element in the universe can be electrolysed from water using renewable energy. In practice it is The vast majority of industrial hydrogen comes from natural gas [PDF] through a process that can be doubly polluted with greenhouse gases.

So for now, train manufacturers like Hitachi are looking to squeeze more efficiencies out of existing technologies, which could be just the ticket. ®

https://www.theregister.com/2022/09/21/hitachi_hybrid_trains/ Emission-reducing hybrid trains to hit the tracks in Europe • The Register

Laura Coffey

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