Italy has introduced sustainable rail travel in Europe with launch of first battery powered trains known as the “Blues.” This Hitachi Masaccio train is a part of a large project that will be adding around 135 battery-powered trains to the national operator. Their operating regions will be Calabria, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Tuscany, Sicily, and Sardinia. These trains have the capability to recharge while in operation. This is a step towards addressing the challenges of electrifying rail lines in geographically complex areas.
While the aviation industry strives for sustainable battery-powered planes, the rail sector has been diligently developing a faster substitute. This leads to battery powered trains in Europe now. In Italy, a fleet of 20 Hitachi Masaccio trains, called “Blues,” is currently in operation.
The project will add 135 battery-powered trains to the national operator, and it is in its first phase, with a budget of 1.23 billion euros. The Trenitalia network extends through the regions of Calabria, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Tuscany, as well as the beautiful islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Trains run in Calabria along the Ionian Coast and in Sicily from Messina to Palermo, as well as from Messina to Catania and Syracuse. Naturally, not every train running on these routes will be the Blue one, therefore it’s a game of chance for passengers to get on board.
These 300-seater Blues trains are equipped with hybrid technology and can operate on diesel, electric or battery power. These tribrid trains come in three or four carriages. Trenitalia said in a statement, “It is the first time that batteries are used as the main energy source on a fleet of trains for commercial use in Europe.”
Hitachi announced that its fleet will be made with 93% recyclable materials and will reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption by 50% compared to diesel trains. Not only do they eliminate emissions, but also reduce noise pollution by running on batteries while passing through urban areas. The “driver advisory system” can also recommend the most efficient speed to minimize energy usage.
Hitachi Rail Group COO and Hitachi Rail Italy CEO, Luca D’Aquila said, “The roll-out of our cutting-edge Masaccio battery train marks an important step in our efforts to decarbonize European rail. With around 40% of regional lines across the continent remaining un-electrified, battery hybrid technology can have an immediate impact.”
“In Italy, the Blues train is helping cut carbon emissions by 50% compared to existing diesel services. We know that consumers increasingly prioritize the sustainability of their travel choices. Trains like the Masaccio mean that we can ensure comfortable, clean and efficient rail is an option for as many people as possible across Europe.” CEO Luca further added.
The trains are limited to a short range of about 10 miles (approximately 15 kilometers) when operating on battery alone. However, they have the capability to recharge while in operation using the pantograph. It is the device located on top of the train that connects it to a power line, or through regenerative braking. This implies that the trains can recharge multiple times throughout a single journey. This further enhances their efficiency and helps in attaining a top speed of around 100 miles per hour (160 kph).
Furthermore, they are designed to be positioned at the same level as the platform, enabling seamless entry for passengers with mobility issues. Almost half of Europe’s rail lines, about 40%, are not yet electrified and more than half of the trains run only on diesel, says Hitachi. And with this sustainable rail travel begins in Europe that is likely to upgrade and improvise in the near future.
The topology of certain areas makes it challenging to implement electricity in some regions. Italy still has more than 2,500 miles of track without electricity. According to Hitachi, the Masaccio line provides an instant solution to aid the decarbonization of passenger rail throughout Europe.
Sustainable rail travel in Europe with launch of first battery powered trains is followed by the upcoming Masaccio model that is expected to be released within a period of two years. With a range of over 100 kilometers (62 miles), it is expected to operate solely on batteries. In addition, Hitachi intends to upgrade the recently launched trains with new features.