Italy has launched its first battery-powered trains designed by Hitachi. Named ‘Blues’, the trains have been running commuter services throughout the country since December last year, using three different energy sources: electricity, batteries and diesel. Hitachi announced that it has completed the first phase of its deployment in Italy with a fleet of 20 Hitachi Masaccio trains (which will eventually number 135), as part of its 1.23 billion euro agreement with Trenitalia, Italy’s main railway operator.
According to Hitachi, the hybrid technology is designed to “generate lower CO2 emissions, reduce fuel consumption by up to 50%, generate less noise, achieve shorter journey times and greater autonomy thanks to the flexible and scalable capacity of the batteries”. One of the advantages is that batteries can operate on both electrified and non-electrified lines, which favors autonomy and allows for a significant reduction in diesel consumption. “It is the first time that batteries are used as the main energy source on a fleet of trains for commercial use in Europe,” Trenitalia said in a statement, as quoted by CNN.
In the specific case of the Masaccio train, the novelty lies in its battery modules, which according to Hitachi, are ”the best lithium-ion batteries in their class”, with high-speed charging capacity, low-temperature performance and high charge and discharge efficiency. Their capacity is flexible and scalable, with a maximum power output of 750 kW per battery pack. They also have a liquid cooling system to maintain even temperature distribution between cells and modules, and a management system to measure voltage and temperature and ensure passive balancing.
It is the first time that batteries are used as the main energy source on a fleet of trains for commercial use in Europe.Trentialia
Built at Hitachi Rail’s factory in Pistoria, the Masaccio trains use pantographs to draw power from overhead lines in electrified areas. When running on non-electrified lines, they rely on a combination of batteries and diesel. When in a populated area or near a station, the batteries switch to fully power the train, producing no polluting emissions and reducing noise pollution. The batteries can be recharged while the train is running, either in diesel or electric mode, with the support of regenerative braking.
In Italy, it is the first time they have been used as the primary power source for an entire journey. The batteries have so far been able to provide a range of 15 km on actual journeys, but Hitachi is already working on the second generation of this type of transport. The next model, due in two years, will be a battery-only train with a range of more than 100 km.
The trains feature the Driver Advisory System (DAS), which helps identify optimal speeds to minimize energy consumption, without sacrificing hourly reliability. They are built with 93% recycled materials, which is an important contribution to the sustainability of transport and the circular economy. They have a 25-year service life with 16 hours of daily operation, and are built for European gauge and adopt the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) as the standard digital signaling protocol. They can carry up to 300 passengers and are equipped with an innovative air conditioning system, which optimizes the use depending on the actual number of passengers on board.
According to Hitachi, the Masaccio train can travel up to 11 km at 50 km/h or 7 km at 100 km/h. Combining propulsion sources can help the train reach speeds of up to 162 km/h, which is significantly higher than other Italian regional trains.