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DaVinci, Michelangelo and Galileo Would Appreciate This Hitachi LRV

Written by Kevin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, International Railway Journal
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Florence, Italy, considered by many academics as the birthplace of the Renaissance, and an important European cultural center, is where Hitachi Rail (previously Italy’s Ansaldo STS) has successfully tested a battery-powered Sirio light rail vehicle in revenue service. It is the Japanese company’s first venture into battery LRVs.

The trial involved equipping an existing Sirio LRV with batteries and operating it between Alamanni on line T1/2 and Fortezza on line T2. Regenerative braking is used to recharge the batteries during operation. Hitachi Rail says the technology offers a less expensive, less disruptive alternative to installation of overhead electrification, particularly in city centers.

Hitachi Rail says it expects to offer the battery LRV for global projects as part of an increasing emphasis on using batteries for traction, including trials on a Class 802 intercity train in Britain in partnership with Eversholt Rail, and delivery of hybrid trains in Italy. The company also built one of the world’s first battery train fleets, 36 two-car series Bec819 trains that are in service with JR Kyushu in and around Fukuoka, Japan.

Branded “Dual Energy Charge Train (Dencha)” in Japan, the Bec819 fleet entered service in 2016.

“We are happy that Hitachi Rail has chosen the tramway in Florence to test this innovation,” said Florence Mayor Dario Nardella. “Battery-powered trams can revolutionize this type of service within cities. Public transport, especially in historic centers, will have to be less impactful and increasingly sustainable. This marks another significant step forward for the tramways in Florence.”

As described in Wikipedia (condensed here), Florence “attracts millions of tourists each year. UNESCO declared the Historic Center of Florence a World Heritage Site in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art (it is home to works by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli) and architecture and monuments. Florence also contains numerous museums and art galleries, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics. Due to Florence’s artistic and architectural heritage, Forbes has ranked it as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Florentine dialect forms the base of Standard Italian and it became the language of culture throughout Italy due to the prestige of the masterpieces by Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolò Machiavelli and Francesco Guicciardini. Florence has been an important scientific center for centuries, notably during the Renaissance with scientists such as Leonardo da Vinci. Florentines were one of the driving forces behind the Age of Discovery. Galileo and other scientists pioneered the study of optics, ballistics, astronomy, anatomy, and other scientific disciplines. Pico della Mirandola, Leonardo Bruni, Machiavelli, and many others laid the groundwork for modern scientific understanding.”

Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono, who is of Italian ancestry, contributed to this story.

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