- TRENS Solar Trains has found a unique, sustainable solution for bringing supplies to shops and restaurants in city centres.
- TRENS’ electrically powered road trains do not cause harmful emissions or too much noise and odour. They do not take up much space and can transport large cargo flexibly
Multifunctional, electric road trains are the missing link in the range of sustainable, Zero Emission vehicles. TRENS employees Jan van Haaren and Peter Cats started developing the concept in 2016. They have successfully started the development of this innovative road train, from their office in the north of Limburg. At the beginning of this year, Henk Kleef joined them as a co-director and investor. TRENS will move its main office and final assembly to the east of the Netherlands to achieve further growth. TRENS is currently renting a space for this from technology supplier and producer Demcon. This has an additional advantage; they have extra support during the development and scaling up of the production.
The TRENS electric road train consists of a tractor and one or more wagons. The tractor is powered by a battery system (lithium iron phosphate) that is charged in the evenings. Its capacity is so high that it is not necessary to stop for charging during the day. Also, the battery system is powered by solar panels that are integrated into the roof of the tractor and wagons. The road train is also prepared for the emerging hydrogen economy, powered by fuel cells. All wheels of the tractor are controlled individually, and each wagon can follow the exact track of the tractor thanks to a unique tractor wagon tracking system. This reduces the turning radius and simplifies manoeuvring in busy environments. The train is light and slender despite the large cargo volume so that the wheel pressure remains low and vulnerable narrow streets or quays in city centres are not broken. Finally, the road train is also prepared for autonomous driving, pending social acceptance.
TRENS’ unique solution has numerous advantages. The road trains can combine the transport movements of small and large (diesel) trucks in city logistics, reducing harmful emissions and nuisance from odour, noise and space. The labour costs are relatively low because the road trains can transport larger volumes than other compact electric vehicles by adding several wagons to one tractor. Besides, no license for driving trucks or buses is required; a BE driving license is sufficient. Wagons have been designed for both freight and passenger transport, and they are easy to connect and disconnect. This enables flexible, possibly combined use. The wagons can be used modularly thanks to their large capacity. An example; they can deliver cargo to a central point in the city centre, and bicycle couriers or electric carts can take care of the “micro-distribution” from there. The smart design with a low loading floor makes unloading the wagons very fast and efficient.
Director Henk Kleef reports that the reception by the market is very positive. “The time windows for supplying are getting tighter in many city centres, and some already do not allow diesel cars at all. Conventional logistics with large trucks that have to bring supplies to shops and catering establishments in several cities on one day no longer work. The first customer, an internationally operating company, will soon be using our road trains for city logistics. The time has come”, says Kleef. He also mentions the Green Deal that European Commissioner Frans Timmermans recently launched and the plans for establishing environmental zones in the city centres of the forty largest municipalities in the Netherlands. “Municipalities like our concept and successful initiatives such as City Hub already exist.” City Hub manages smart warehouses on the outskirts of the city for business storage and green distribution in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Roermond. There are, of course, also economic motives, besides the sustainable ones. More floor space becomes available in the shops in the city centres thanks to decentralised storage, and that is something our new 1.5-metre economy can use! There is also much interest in TRENS for passenger transport. “A foreign transport company has challenged us to present a solution for their regional transport.”
TRENS is ready. The design of the road train is almost finished, and it has been certified in Europe for admission on public roads. They already have their first customer, and they can move to the international market thanks to an investment of millions. In addition to having three new directors, they now have new shareholders in Demcon, development company Oost NL, a strategically sustainable investment company owned by Herman Kok from Enschede, and a strategic investor. Oscar Elderink, investment manager at Oost NL: “The TRENS initiative contributes to accessible, liveable and safe cities. We promote clean, safe and efficient transport with this investment. Because TRENS uses regional suppliers, this initiative also directly contributes to the structure of the regional economy.” Dennis Schipper, CEO of Demcon Group, says: “This investment in TRENS gives Demcon access to the world of sustainable mobility issues. It is one of the most important social issues of our time.”
TRENS can grow into a large company with these investors and become a leading player in Europe for the design and production of sustainable electric vehicles. We have opted for a location in Twente because of these parties and the presence of the University of Twente, ROC and Saxion University of Applied Sciences, to attract good engineers. Sustainable supplying is also becoming increasingly important for market sectors such as logistics for healthcare and construction. This necessity makes being substantially and strategically involved with the promising TRENS Solar Trains even more attractive to investors.