German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Siemens Mobility have started the development of hydrogen-powered fuel cell trains and ancillary infrastructure.
The project will use the electric Mireo Plus railcar to develop a hydrogen-powered prototype vehicle, which will be tested for a year from 2024 between Tübingen, Horb and Pforzheim.
The two-car commuter train will be equipped with fuel cells to generate electricity, along with a battery.
Capable of running at speeds of up to 160km/h, the Mireo Plus H vehicle will have a range of 600km and is expected to save 330t of carbon dioxide over the year.
Separately, a special filling station will be developed for refilling while DB will modify its maintenance facility in the city of Ulm for servicing the vehicle.
Siemens Mobility CEO Michael Peter said: “Siemens Mobility and Deutsche Bahn will jointly develop the next generation of a hydrogen traction system – a complete system consisting of a hydrogen-powered train and infrastructure, including a new and innovative fuelling station that can quickly refuel the train in just 15 minutes.
“The train will have 1.7MW of traction power providing up to 1.1m/s² acceleration and a top speed of 160km/h.”
The step comes as DB seeks to become climate-neutral by replacing its diesel-powered trains with sustainable alternatives.
DB currently operates 1,300 diesel-powered trains for regional services and around 40% of its 33,000km network is non-electrified.
DB Digitalization and Technology board member Sabina Jeschke said: “This project proves that Deutsche Bahn is not just a mobility company, but a technology group as well.
“We need to bring our fossil fuel consumption down to zero. Only then can DB be climate-neutral by 2050. By that point, we won’t have a single diesel-powered train operating in our fleet.”
The project is supported by the state government of Baden-Württemberg. The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) has also announced funding for the project through the National Innovation Programme Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP 2).
Last month, Siemens Mobility signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a spun-off entity Siemens Energy to jointly develop hydrogen systems for railway operations.