Dutch zero-emission trains to combine biofuel with battery storage

A batch of zero-emission trains that combine regenerative electrification technology with renewable diesel have been scheduled for commercialisation for 2025, after a pan-European passenger transport firm signed a €170m contract to manufacture the vehicles in the Netherlands.

Arriva confirmed the contract with train manufacturer Stadler to construct 18 “world-first” zero emission trains to be used on partially electrified tracks. The investment will lead to the creation of the “Flirtino”, a train that runs on Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) renewable biodiesel before switching to battery-charged electricity for parts of the track without electrification.

According to Arriva, this is the first train in the world that combines regenerative technology with an HVO engine and battery storage.

Arriva’s chief executive Manfred Rudhart said: “As one of Europe’s largest transport operators, we are proud to be delivering into service world-first Flirtino trains for our Dutch customers. This is a major step towards creating a future where transport across Europe is cleaner, greener and more sustainable.

“Our investment in these new green technologies shows our commitment to ensuring that the environment remains top of the transport agenda across our operations in mainland Europe – an area which is an important growth engine for Arriva.”

Arriva successfully bid on a Northern Lines contract in the Netherlands in July 2017. Part of the train line in the surrounding area is obstructed by bridges and viaducts, meaning the track line cannot deliver full electrification to the train. The first trains on HVO engines will be introduced in 2020, before the remaining technologies on track and train are fitted by 2025.

While the Flirtino models are the first zero-emission trains to run on partially electrified railway lines, the existing 51-train fleet from Northern Lines will be equipped with battery packs in the future.


Earlier this month, the CRRC Corporation unveiled a 100% electric, self-driving train that journeys on virtual tracks. Operating in select streets of Zhuzhou in the Chinese Province of Hunan, the Autonomous Rail Rapid Transit can transport up to 300 passengers, reaching speeds of around 43mph.

The vehicle also uses rubber tires instead of traditional steel wheels, and runs on dotted patterns painted onto streets. Sensors pick up these patterns and travel across them accordingly. It has been reported that the train can travel more than 15 miles after a 10-minute charge.

Elsewhere, Indian Railways launched its first train fitted with rooftop solar panels. Operating across Delhi, the trains will have fans, lighting and display systems powered by renewables in a move that could save more than 5,500 gallons of diesel annually. Indian Railways has also confirmed that solar panels will be fitted on 24 other trains over the next six months.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie