The railway industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for high efficiency, reduced emissions and enhanced passenger experience, and growing importance of technologies such as automation, hybrid and electric propulsion systems, advanced train control and signalling, and smart monitoring and surveillance systems. In the last three years alone, there have been over 46,000 patents filed and granted in the railway industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environmental sustainability in Railway: Hybrid locomotives. Buy the report here.

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 9,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the railway industry, there are 10+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Hybrid locomotives is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

A hybrid train is a locomotive that can switch between diesel, overhead electric or onboard battery power for traction. Capable of travelling beyond electrified routes, hybrid locomotives ensure seamless journeys and help cut emissions, benefiting operators as well as the environment.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10 companies, spanning technology vendors, established railway companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of hybrid locomotives.

Key players in hybrid locomotives – a disruptive innovation in the railway industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to hybrid locomotives

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Hitachi 45 Unlock company profile
CRRC Group 28 Unlock company profile
Siemens 21 Unlock company profile
Mitsubishi Electric 9 Unlock company profile
Alstom 9 Unlock company profile
SNCF Group 6 Unlock company profile
General Electric 6 Unlock company profile
Toshiba 6 Unlock company profile
JMV 5 Unlock company profile
Caterpillar 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Hitachi is the leading patent filer in hybrid locomotives. Its patents relate to innovative power generation assemblies, actuating device, onboard electric components including AC/DC power converters, rail battery charging methods, and underframes, drive systems and control methods for hybrid locomotives that obtain electric power from a plurality of different power sources.

In September 2022, Hitachi unveiled its new battery hybrid train named Blues Train at the InnoTrans trade fair in Berlin, Germany. Designed to operate on electrified and non-electrified lines, the new train has a battery that can recharge while the train is in operation, both in diesel and electric modes. Capable of reaching and departing from stations completely using battery power, Blues Train can minimise noise and help cut down carbon emissions and fuel usage by 50%.

The hybrid locomotive was developed for Trenitalia, the primary train operator in Italy. It entered service with Trenitalia in Sicily, Italy, in December 2022, becoming the first ever tri-mode (battery, electric, and diesel power) train to enter passenger service in Europe. Hitachi will deliver up to 135 such trains to Trenitalia under a framework agreement signed in December 2019.

Other leading innovators in the hybrid locomotives space include CRRC Group, Siemens, and Alstom.

In terms of application diversity, Mitsubishi Electric leads the pack, followed by JMV and Hitachi. By geographic reach, Toshiba is the leading company, followed by Siemens and SNCF Group.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the railway industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Railway.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.