Siemens on track for long-range hydrogen-powered trains

by Reuters
Thursday, 2 December 2021 13:52 GMT

A train with a destination sign "Ahrweiler" is seen on the first day that the railway connection is restored after damages due to the disaster in Heimersheim, at the railway station of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

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Hydrogen-powered train technology will be trialed by manufacturer Siemens next year in hope of making a significant contribution to environmental goals

By John Revill

ZURICH, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Hydrogen-powered trains with ranges of up to 1,000 km are being trialled by Germany's Siemens which sees them as a emissions free solution on routes without overhead power cables.

Trains which use hydrogen to charge an onboard battery extend the range from around 100 km for battery only-trains, making them viable for long distance routes without overhead lines, Michael Peter, head of Siemens Mobility, said.

"We have the tools in our hands in transportation to reduce emissions to zero, and then you cannot just talk about the cheapest operating cost," said Peter. "You have to talk about the cost of allowing CO2 into the atmosphere which is gigantic."

Hydrogen-powered are also cheaper and quicker to introduce than hydrogen trucks because they do not need a broad network of fuel stations to support them, Peter said in an interview for the Reuters Next conference.

Today's trains running over long distances where overhead powerlines are not present rely on diesel engines, which produce harmful emissions, including carbon dioxide.

"In Europe there are 20,000 rail vehicles which could be replaced by hydrogen in the next 15 years," Peter said.

"We think the future of transportation in the U.S. is by slowly electrifying," Peter added. "But 60% of the line is electrified and 40% is not."

Siemens trains work with a hydrogen generator which charges an on-board electric battery that powers an electric motor.

The battery is only used to deliver high peak power for fast acceleration, and reach speeds of up to 160 km per hour.

The technology, which is being trialled by Siemens in Germany next year, will make a significant contribution to environmental goals, Peter said.

"Around 80% of railway traffic already runs on electrified lines, that is 100% green. For the remaining 20%, mass transportation is cleaner - even if it is diesel - than an individual car," Peter said.

"If we want to meet our climate targets, transport in general should strive to be 100% clean."

Siemens Mobility declined to give details of the costs of the trains, although hydrogen-powered ones are usually more costly than electric-only versions.

But over the long term, this can be reduced by their long lifespan, with trains that can cover 400,000 km a year for 40 years and can also be recycled.

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Alexander Smith)