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Hitachi Rail has completed phase one of production of its Masaccio hybrid battery train at Hitachi Rail’s factory in Pistoia, near Florence.

The completion of 20 trains – branded as ‘Blues’ by Trenitalia – marks the first tranche of an order that was included in a €1.23bn framework agreement with Trenitalia for up to 135 trains. Trenitalia is the main Italian passenger rail operator, and the azzurri colour scheme is a significant national emblem.

The Masaccio’s hybrid technology allows the train to draw from battery, electric, hybrid, and diesel power.

While Hitachi Rail already uses diesel-electric hybrid technology, this is the first time batteries have been deployed as a major power source on a train fleet for commercial use in Europe.

The trains are able to recharge their batteries while in service using the pantograph or traction motors.

The train’s Driver Advisory System (DAS) identifies the optimal speed for timetable reliability and reduction of energy consumption. Hitachi also boasts that Masaccio trains are made with 93% recyclable materials.

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The battery on board provides the Masaccio trains with added power and acceleration to tackle tough gradients.

“The roll-out of our cutting-edge Masaccio battery train marks an important step in our efforts to decarbonise European rail. With around 40% of regional lines across the continent remaining un-electrified, battery hybrid technology can have an immediate impact,” said Luca D’Aquila, Hitachi Rail Group COO and Hitachi Rail Italy CEO.

“In Italy, the Blues train is helping cut carbon emissions by 50% compared to existing diesel services. We know that consumers increasingly prioritise 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.”

Debuted at Innotrans 2022 in Berlin, Masaccio trains are built at a Europe-wide gauge and with European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) digital signalling included onboard as standard.

Hitachi says it will continue to develop the Masaccio, claiming the next model – anticipated in two years’ time – will operate as a battery-only train with a journey range of over 100km.

According to Hitachi, the technology will be backwards-compatible, meaning the 20 trains delivered now will be able to be retrofitted in the future to be completely battery-powered.