Saturday, 12 August 2023

Germany Say NO To More Hydrogen Trains

LVNG, the German state-owned railway company, who began running hydrogen fuel-cell Alstom Coradia iLint, trains on trial routes in the Lower Saxony region in Sept 2018, have said that they will order no more. 
Instead they will focus on battery power for lines that are not electrified.

The launch of Germany's hydrogen train on trial routes in was a significant occasion in the move away from diesel power. The Coradia iLint, built by Alstom in Salzgitter, Germany began operation in 2018. see here

The full commercial rollout of these train, in August 2022, had already been derailed on several occasions. The trains required new hardware and software to be retrofitted for their routes, driver shortages left no spare time to educate them on running hydrogen trains, and there were troubles at the hydrogen refuelling station in winter.

Now a year after the full commercial launch, the Lower Saxony state ministry has abandoned ideas for future hydrogen trains, arguing that battery-electric models “are cheaper to operate.”

Hydrogen trains will no longer be considered as a possible replacement for diesel locomotives in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, after a study it commissioned found that installation of overhead electricity lines or battery hybrid trains were far more economic over a 30-year period.

“The state has had a total of 16 non-electrified route sections examined for the use local emission-free rail vehicles. In most cases, battery hybrid trains turned out to the best solution,” the state in southwest Germany said in a press release.

Battery hybrid trains are powered by a battery that is recharged on sections of track with overhead power lines.

Consequently, hydrogen fuel-cell trains “will no longer be considered in the near future for various operational and economic reasons”, the state said.

“In a direct comparison, this technology was not able to assert itself on any of the examined routes in Baden-Württemberg — due to the infrastructure and operational characteristics.”

Baden-Württemberg transport minister Winfried Hermann and colleagues with a Siemens
Mireo Plus B battery hybrid train. 

In a 25-page press-conference presentation on the report’s findings, the state’s transport minister, Winfried Hermann, set out the positives and negatives for each of the three zero-carbon options considered: hydrogen trains, battery hybrids and conventional electric trains powered by overhead lines.

The positives for hydrogen were: minor impacts upon introduction and during operation, and no changes required to the rail infrastructure. But the negatives were - costly filling stations; low efficiency, high energy consumption and high cost; the possible need to increase the number of trains because the range would not be sufficient for a whole day of travel; limited availability of green hydrogen; and the need to continually resupply the hydrogen filling stations.

The presentation showed the total cost of ownership (TCO) over a 30-year period on two of the “sub-networks”.

On the Westfrankenbahn line, the TCO of a hydrogen-powered operation would be €849m ($833m), compared to €506m for a battery hybrid and €588m for conventional electric trains.

Report here

Alstom hasn’t given up on hydrogen trains entirely. In mid-June, the French manufacturer undertook a demonstration project, in which a Coradia iLint hydrogen train carried its very first North American passengers in Canada.

Coradia iLint hydrogen train carried its very first North American passengers on June 17, 2023

“Hydrogen technology offers an alternative to diesel and demonstrates our ability to provide more sustainable mobility solutions to our customers, agencies and operators, as well as passengers,” Michael Keroullé, president of Alstom Americas, said then.

Alstom has also been working with the Czech government to bring hydrogen trains to the country, which has been facing a severe natural gas crunch since Russia, its primary supplier, invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Update  More information here