25 Aug 2022, 13:58
Hannah Naylor

World first achieved as hydrogen trains in Germany commence regular operation

Clean Energy Wire / Der Spiegel

Germany saw the commencement of the world’s first regular operation of hydrogen-powered trains this week, making "railway history," operator company EVB said. The new train design, described as a “power plant on wheels” by the northern German company, releases only harmless water vapour from its exhaust. EVB's home state Lower Saxony estimates that 4,400 tonnes of CO2 will be saved annually as a result, which could be greatly increased once exclusively green hydrogen is used. In a first step, the hydrogen trains will replace 15 diesel-powered trains in Lower Saxony's local public transport system, where diesel engines are still widespread due to the lack of overhead electric rail infrastructure, news magazine Der Spiegel said. The advantage that hydrogen trains have over their other battery-powered competitor, which run alongside diesel ones in areas of Germany yet to have the rail electrified, is that they do not need to be refuelled as often as their battery-powered counterparts need to be recharged. This increases the flexibility of journey lengths they are suitable for. The town of Bremervörde, where the filling station is located, has said in the future the trains will be run exclusively by green hydrogen - produced via electrolysis from renewable power. Currently, however, the hydrogen used for the trains will be mostly grey hydrogen, sourced from the electrolysis of U.S. chemicals producer Dow’s huge plant in Stade.

At the beginning of this year the first battery-powered trains began trial operations, in hopes of them becoming a reliable alternative to diesel trains in areas where the lines are not yet electrified. Railway company Deutsche Bahn is set to start testing a hydrogen-fuelled regional train from 2024, as part of the company’s bid to become climate neutral by 2050.

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