Rail Company To Introduce Hydrogen-Powered Trains By 2024
Germany has announced plans to convert its entire train network to green energy, beginning with a trial of a new hydrogen-powered train fleet.
Deutsche Bahn – the country’s state-owned rail network – says it will develop the set of hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains with Siemens Mobility, the transport arm of the German conglomerate. The aim is to begin trialling the fleet in the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg by 2024.
At the moment, 60% of Germany’s train network is electrified, with the remaining 40% running on diesel power. By replacing these trains with hydrogen-powered models, Deutsche Bahn estimates that the country could reduce its carbon emissions by up to 330 tons per year.
German commuters got a taste of hydrogen-powered public transport back in 2018 when French train manufacturer Alstrom launched the world’s first hydrogen-powered train on a route in the north of the country, but this new plan is set to roll the technology out even further.
The first generation of the DB/Siemens hydrogen-powered trains would also be equipped with an on-board battery, meaning they could switch to electrical supply when running on electrified parts of the network. The fuel cells themselves would give the trains a range of 400 miles, and a top speed of 100mph. Ahead of the 2024 trial, Deutsche Bahn is also preparing to convert one of its maintenance shops into its first hydrogen filling station.
Professor Sabine Jeschke, Deutsche Bahn board member for digitisation and technology, told Deutsche Welle:
The fact that we will produce hydrogen on-site from green electricity and will refuel the train as quickly as a diesel train shows that the climate friendly transport turnaround is possible.
We have to bring fossil fuel consumption to zero. Then we will not run a single vehicle with conventional diesel.
Hydrogen-powered fuel cells generate electricity from a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, leaving water as the only by-product. Many have backed hydrogen fuel cells over electric batteries as the true revolution in green energy, however various logistical and technical challenges have prevented it becoming more widely adopted until now. Currently, the majority of the world’s hydrogen is still generated through fossil fuels.
Germany is rapidly advancing its green energy production as part of its pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The country last year announced €40bn in funding for climate-related projects, and Deutsche Welle reports that the government earlier this year pledged a new €9 billion fund for hydrogen power development as part of its Covid-19 stimulus package.
With the country set to close its last coal-firing power plants by 2038, Deutsche Bahn now has an 18-year deadline to shift its network to 100% green energy. These hydrogen-powered trains could be the key first step.
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