01 Apr 2020, 15:14
Sören Amelang

Climate-friendly hybrid trains could replace majority of German diesel engines – study

Clean Energy Wire

Trains with alternative propulsion systems have a large market potential in Germany and could replace the majority of the country's diesel trains within 20 years, according to a study by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Hybrid engines - especially on minor railway lines - are a low-emission alternative because electrification of tracks is very costly and time-consuming, argues the study commissioned by the National Organisation Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW GmbH), which coordinates the National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP) and the transport ministry's Electromobility Model Regions programme. Electricity-run hybrid railcars draw their power either from existing overhead lines or from batteries or fuel cells, independent of the contact wire.

Currently, diesel trains operate on more than 400 regional railway lines. This results in a market potential for up to 2,500 hybrid trains by 2038, according to the study. Whether to use fuel cells or batteries not only depends on distances and the degree of electrification, but also on investment and maintenance costs. Because the current range of battery-supported hybrid trains is up to 100 kilometres, these are particularly suited to lines which are easy to electrify or already have overhead power lines. "On lines with long sections without overhead cables, as well as networks with only a few overhead contact lines, fuel cell engines are the better choice. This is particularly true for rail links in regions where hydrogen produced from renewable energies is readily available," a press release says.

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