In a significant development, Deutsche Bahn and Siemens Mobility have started developing hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains as well as filling station; trials for the same will commence in 2024. In time these will replace diesel powered train engines on Germany’s local rail networks.
A prototype, which will be built by Siemens, will be based on electric railcar Mireo Plus which will be equipped with fuel cells to turn hydrogen and oxygen into electricity on board along with a battery, said both companies.
In a statement, Siemens mobility’s chief executive Michael Peter said, it is possible that the prototype will be fed by three power sources in a modular system; it can be powered either over existing electric lines, or by battery, or even by fuel cell, depending on where it would run.
Incidentally, German railway operator Deutsche Bahn has not electrified 40% of its 33,000 kilometre (km) long network, on which it runs 1,300 fossil-fuel emitting diesel locomotives.
“Our hydrogen trains are able to replace diesel-fuelled trains in the long term,” said Peter while emphasizing that in the long run rail transport will have to decarbonised under European Union and national climate targets.
The new prototype is likely to be fuelled within 15 minutes, and have a range of 600 km and a top speed of 160 km/hour.
A test run will be done between Tuebingen, Horb and Pforzheim in Baden Wuerttemberg state, with the main target market operators being regional networks that typically re-order lots of 10 to 50 trains, said Peter.
“We see a market potential of 10,000-15,000 trains in Europe that will need to be replaced over the next 10-15 years, with 3,000 alone in Germany,” he said.
Each train is likely to cost between $5.9 to $11.9 million (5 to 10 million euros) creating a market potential of 50-150 billion euros overall.
Berlin expects the price of green hydrogen to become competitive in the long term; at lower price points it will play a significant role in decarbonising industries, including transport and heating.