The tram-train service would join up with the existing Supertram network
Passengers in South Yorkshire could be the first in the UK to use Continental-style tram-trains under plans announced by the Department for Transport (DfT).
A trial of the electric vehicles is planned on a new service linking Rotherham and Sheffield.
Once a feasibility study has been completed, the project will take three years and £24m to get up and running.
Five tram-trains will run on existing freight track from Rotherham and then join the Sheffield Supertram network.
The scheme replaces a previously-announced tram-train trial on the Penistone Line, linking Sheffield and Huddersfield via Barnsley, which would have used diesel-powered vehicles.
That phase of the trial is now due to go ahead at a later date after it was decided that the electric tram-trains were more economically viable.
Rail Minister Chris Mole announced the plans on a visit to Meadowhall in Sheffield, where tram-trains will connect to the city's Supertram network.
He said: "Tram-train is a new concept for Britain, but it has already proved a valuable addition to rail fleets on the continent.
"Adapting tram-train to the UK requires some testing, but while that is under way, people in South Yorkshire will have the chance to experience this new type of vehicle for themselves, and I hope they will tell us what they think of it."
David Brown, director general of the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said: "If we can overcome the technical challenges then tram-trains would bring huge benefits to the travelling public in South Yorkshire.
"They would widen the options available to those people travelling between Rotherham and Sheffield and the technology could eventually be used elsewhere in the UK too."
Train operator Northern Rail will buy the new vehicles for the Rotherham-Sheffield operation, while Network Rail is investigating what works would be necessary to safely accommodate the vehicles on the UK network.