At last week’s presentation, the doors were still missing. Due to the corona crisis, the delivery from Italy, where they had to come from, was delayed. But for the rest, the Trens Solar Train is ready for the start. The solar-powered road train claims it’s going to revolutionize passenger transport and the supply of shops and restaurants in inner cities.

The first train has already been sold to a ‘large international company’ – yet to be announced. An investment of millions of euros in the new branch in Enschede should help make the step to the international market. Several potential customers have already come forward. Passenger transport is possible for up to 60 people.

Electric tractor with wagons

Trens is not the only one working on vehicles for electric transport. It is a competitive and therefore risky market. But one with enormous growth prospects, because traditional (polluting) trucks are increasingly excluded from inner cities. For example, a recent study commissioned by Jungheinrich UK showed that almost half of all logistics experts expect that trucks that now run on diesel or LPG will be replaced by alternatives with a battery and an electric motor.

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    In passenger transport, one could think of electric buses of, for example, VDL, while in road freight transport many people look to Tesla and its Tesla Semi. The Italian company Alkè is an example from Europe, but the experiments with their Cargohopper in the Netherlands (a.o. Utrecht, see picture) unfortunately had to be stopped.

    The Cargohopper in Utrecht

    Trens Solar has come up with its own concept, which consists of a tractor and one or more wagons. The tractor is powered by an electric motor and a battery based on lithium iron phosphate that is charged in the evening. According to Van Kleef, the capacity is so large that there is no need to stop during the day for recharging. This is also possible because the battery is constantly supplied with electricity from the solar panels in the roof of the tractor and the wagons.

    An additional advantage of the train is that the tractor’s wheels can be controlled separately so that each wagon can follow the exact track of the tractor. This makes it easier to maneuver in busy environments. Furthermore, the inventors claim that the train’s wheels exert less pressure on the road surface so that vulnerable narrow streets or quays in inner cities are not broken down as with classic trucks.

    Origin: Limburg

    The company originated in the Limburg community of Geijsteren. The chassis is built there and will remain so in the future. But from now on the main part of the work will take place in Enschede. It concerns an ‘investment of millions’ by a number of parties consisting of Demcon, development company Oost NL, an investment company of the Enschede businessman Herman Kok and an undisclosed strategic investor.

    In addition, as investors on board, the initiators from the very beginning are Jan van Haaren and Peter Cats. At the beginning of this year, Henk Kleef joined them as co-director.

    Demcon

    In Enschede, Trens will work closely with the technology company Demcon. “This investment in Trens gives us access to the world of sustainable mobility issues, one of the most important social issues of our time,” says Dennis Schipper, CEO of the Demcon Group in the press release of Oost NL.

    According to director Henk Kleef, the reception by the market is very positive. “In many inner cities the time windows for supplies are getting tighter and tighter and some inner cities are already locked for diesel cars. Conventional logistics with large trucks that have to supply shops and catering establishments in several cities in one day no longer work”.

    According to Kleef, with the new investors, Trens can continue to grow and become a major player in Europe in the design and production of sustainable electric vehicles.

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Maurits Kuypers graduated as a macroeconomist from the University of Amsterdam, specialising in international work. He has been active as a journalist since 1997, first for 10 years on the editorial staff of Het Financieele Dagblad in Amsterdam, then as a freelance correspondent in Berlin and Central Europe. When it comes to technological innovations, he always has an eye for the financial feasibility of a project.