The two heavyweights of the German economy move together into the future. Siemens and Deutsche Bahn deploy a hydrogen-powered train on rails. However, it will take several more years: In 2024, the partners will seek trial operation on the route between Tübingen, Horb and Pforzheim. A competitor of Siemens Alstom has several years of leadership. In the autumn of 2018, test runs of the “Coradia iLint” on a route previously used by diesel vehicles in the Weser-Elbe network in Lower Saxony began. Coradia is being built at the Alstom plant in Salzgitter, which is why the Lower Saxony government has not only promoted trial operation, but now also 14 Ordered trains from Alstom for a good 80 million euros to be on the roads between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven and Buxtehude from 2022. From 2022, Coradia will also run on four routes in Taunus.
Alstom is further than Siemens
It seems that the French Alstom is not just Siemens Mobility, as the Siemens railway division is called. However, the Germans claim the differences: the Alstom train is a converted diesel unit, while the Siemens “Mireo Plus H” is based on a new platform that enables the production of both battery and electric and hydrogen trains. In addition, the Siemens train reaches a top speed of 160 km / h, but Alstom Coradia, according to Siemens Mobility, only 140 km / h. The Mireo will be built in Krefeld. At what price is it open. Alstom Coradia was initially about a third more expensive than the diesel unit.
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Possible options are trucks, trains and ships
Green hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energy, is the most powerful means of decarbonising industry and transport. Without hydrogen, for example, the chemical and steel industries could not be transformed into CO2-free production. In transport, the aim is to use it in the commercial vehicle / lorry sector, rail and inland waterway transport in the coming years. In the passenger car sector, electric cars will be significantly more efficient than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the foreseeable future. The federal government has defined dozens of projects as part of a national hydrogen strategy for which the federal government itself spends billions. The Federal Ministry of Transport has promised to finance a joint project between Deutsche Bahn and Siemens.
1300 diesel trains in operation
A hydrogen train has a fuel cell on board that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. In a way, the only waste product is water or steam, so the train does not blow any pollutants into the air – unlike diesel locomotives, which are still on the road for much of the route. According to the company, about 40 percent of the 33,000-kilometer-long railway network in Germany is not electrified and uses about 1,300 diesel engine units, which the railway itself still has in its rolling stock. In terms of rail performance, statistics speak a different language: 90 percent of the kilometers traveled are electric; Overhead lines supply trains with long-distance electricity to trains.
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Filled in 15 minutes
Overhead lines do not pay off in remote areas of regional transport. Here, the diesel locomotive is to be gradually replaced by a hydrogen train. To this end, Deutsche Bahn is developing a new hydrogen filling station that can fill a motor car in 15 minutes. The diesel train also needs so much time. Refueling time is “an important aspect given the tight schedule in regional transport”.
Hydrogen will be “produced at the mobile filling station in DB Regio-Werk Tübingen by electrolysis,” announced Deutsche Bahn and Siemens Mobility. In the cell, water is divided into hydrogen and oxygen by electricity.
“Compressed in the compressor, hydrogen is stored in a modern storage facility.” Before refueling, the green fuel is processed and cooled in an “adjacent tanker trailer”. This “mobile structure” allows for further test projects, Bahn and Siemens have announced.
Siemens expects high demand
Overall, a new overall system consisting of a newly developed train and a newly designed filling station will be tested in a Baden-Württemberg test run. “With this project, we are once again proving that Deutsche Bahn is not only a mobility company, but also a technology company,” said DB Board Member Sabina Jeschke. Siemens, in turn, hopes for dynamic demand. The group expects further orders for the delivery of the Mireo Plus H model in the near future, which is to travel 600 kilometers per fuel tank. During a test run between Tübingen and Pforzheim, replacing a diesel engine in one year would save around 330 tonnes of CO2, the partners said. Baden-Württemberg Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) was pleased “that the first train with this new and sustainable technology will be on its way here with us”.
An electric train called Mireo Plus is ready to go southwest. Siemens also supplies 20 more of these electric trains to the State Institute for Railway Vehicles, which uses clean rail cars in the Ortenau area near Offenburg. More electric Mireos are on the way in Austria and possibly soon in Saxony, Siemens said.