Life Cycle Assessment of Alternative Traction Options for Non-Electrified Regional Railway Lines

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The railway sector is facing significant challenges in addressing the increasing concerns related to climate change, environmental pollution and scarcity of resources. This especially applies to often non-electrified regional railway networks, with passenger services provided by diesel-driven vehicles. Innovative propulsion system concepts offer significant improvement of energy efficiency and reduction of overall environmental impact from train operation. This study presents a life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions linked to the implementation of alternative powertrain systems in conventional diesel-electric multiple-unit vehicles employed on the regional railway lines in the northern Netherlands. The analysis encompassed the retrofit of a standard vehicle to its hybrid-electric, fuel cell-electric and battery-electric counterparts, and a comparative assessment of life cycle emissions during a ten-year time horizon. Results indicated significant impact of the production pathway for alternative energy carriers to diesel, namely hydrogen and electricity. The largest reduction in total emissions (96.80%) is obtained for a fuel cell-electric vehicle running on hydrogen produced from electrolysis, with slightly lower performance shown by the battery-electric configuration using green electricity produced from wind power (95.92%). Maintaining the diesel engine in the hybrid-electric alternative leads to a potential overall emission reduction of about 27%, as a result of improved fuel economy offered by the implemented energy storage system, and could be considered as a cost-effective transition solution towards carbon-neutral trains operation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventWorld Congress on Railway Research 2022: Reshaping our railways post-pandemic: Research with an impact - International Convention Centre Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 6 Jun 202210 Jun 2022


ConferenceWorld Congress on Railway Research 2022
Abbreviated titleWCRR 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • regional railways
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • life cycle assessment
  • alternative propulsion systems


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