Composite Engineering for a promising Start-up: the 100% electronic Trens Solar Train

Trens is developing two variations of this train: one that is suitable for passenger transport and a slightly different one suitable for distribution to restaurants and shops in a city.

What is the Trens Solar Train store exactly?

We ask Jan van Haaren, technical director, about the Trens Solar Train. "The Trens Solar Train is a 100% electric vehicle that consists of modular parts. It’s a truck with multiple trailers. This train is very suitable to drive from a carpark or distribution centre to a citycentre", according to Jan. "It can be used to transport people from parking lots, but it is also very suitable for cargo transport. For this reason, the company Sligro uses the train to supply catering locations". 

Jan has got a lot of experience in tourism and the production of electric vehicles, and brings lots of knowledge into the development of the Trens Solar Train. "From 2000 to 2015 I have done nothing but develop, produce and market tourist trains. We noticed a growing need for sustainable inner-city transport for both people and the distribution of shops and restaurants", that is the reason why the Trens Solar Train is now being developed.

The role of Solico

Why did you choose Solico? "On the recommendation of numerous larger producers of composites, I ended up at Solico," explained. "It is essential that the parts are properly calculated so it can withstand all the forces it may encounter. Solico is the right organisation to do this for us."  

The needs regarding the Trens Solar Train

"We were in need of some strength calculations and adjustments. The train consists out of a modular system. Especially the place where all parts of the body come together, the so-called 'heads and tail' of the wagons contain places where weight threatens to cause deflections. Solico carried out the necessary calculations, made recommendations on how to handle the material and came up with the right solutions for this". 

The Insight of the Engineer on the project

There was a need for a self-supporting composite body. This means that the entire body of the vehicle contributes to the strength and load-bearing capacity of the whole vehicle instead of being supported by a chassis, which is normally the case. In addition, this body should also have an insulating effect, especially for cooled distribution trailers.

A self-supporting body has the advantage that it can be constructed efficiently and thus a low floor can be realised. It saves weight and is more convenient for urban activities, as access is more practical in comparison to other vehicles. Pallets, for example, are much easier to transport. The trains and trailers can be produced cost-efficiently as the components can be fabricated in a minimum number of moulds, and parts are interchangeable.

The maximum permissible weight for the Solar Train is an impressive 3.5 tons, which has to be carried by the composite body. The fact that the design contains a low deck turned out to be a challenge. In order to achieve a good structural solution, fibreglass stiffeners were added to provide a structure capable of taking the bending moments and shear forces.These additions ensured that the construction works as a whole.

Why is composite used here?

The freedom of shape allows lightweight products to be fabricated. This fits the weight limitation target. It also allows for rapid production of multiple trains and trailers.

Review of the client: how do you feel about working with Solico? 

Jan van Haaren: "Excellent. The collaboration went very well, we worked together briefly and powerfully, which allowed us to move on quickly. Solico's employees were constantly available to do some residual work in the following period". 

The Trens Solar Train will be launched on the market in the summer of 2020. Two trains have been bought by Sligro, they will hit the road in Ghent and Antwerp. Would you like to read more about the Trens Solar Train? Visit their website here

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