Environmentally-friendly drives - BMVI supports fuel cell and battery multiple-unit trains

Zero-emission railcars will constitute an environmentally-friendly alternative to diesel trains for non-electrified rail routes. Thus the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is funding the development of railcars with batteries or fuel cell drives.

At InnoTrans 2016, Minister Dobrindt unveiled the world’s first multiple unit train with fuel cell drive and presented a memorandum of understanding for the funding of a battery-electric multiple unit train. Both projects are part of the funding programmes: National Innovation Programme (NIP) and the Electromobility subsidy guideline of the BMVI, implemented by the NOW.

Dobrindt: “Up until now trains with diesel railcars operate on secondary routes where the overhead lines are either inefficient or don’t yet exist. With our investment we are bringing environmentally-friendly drives on track: emission-free, energy-efficient, cost-effective – a real alternative to diesel. By using fuel cell and battery technology on the railways, a new era is dawning for non-electrified routes.”

A world first – Fuel cell train from 2018 in local transport from Alstom

The BMVI has funded the development of the railcar through the company Alstom – made in Germany – with almost 8 million euro within the “National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology”. The overall volume of investment totals around 20 million euro.
Two vehicles are to be deployed in local transport from 2018 in Lower Saxony on the Bremerhaven – Buxtehude – Cuxhaven line. This is expected to be the world’s first running of a fuel cell train in regular service. As well as Lower Saxony and North Rhine Westphalia, Hesse and Baden-Württemberg have also signed letters of intent for the use of fuel cell trains.
Compared to conventional diesel railcars, fuel cell railcars display a higher level of energy efficiency, through which the necessary energy costs for the drive mode will be decreased. In addition a centrally-built hydrogen refuelling station can completely cover the energy requirements of a regional transport rail network; thus the construction of a dense network of refuelling stations is not necessary. The technical development of the trains for regional operation is taking place in Alstom-Werk in Salzgitter.

BMVI study – already now 25 per cent cheaper than diesel

Within the BMVI Study “Hydrogen rail infrastructure”, operational requirements of fuel cell drives in rail operation such as refuelling, deployment planning, maintenance and liability issues were examined. The results showed that regarding rotation planning and the associated refuelling or maintenance for the upcoming routes in question in Germany, no operational restrictions are posed by hydrogen technology. Because of efficiency advantages of the fuel cell drive and lower maintenance costs compared to diesel infrastructure, the study’s economic analysis revealed that in terms of infrastructural running costs (operational costs, fuel costs, tariffs), cost benefits of up to 25 per cent can be calculated in the medium term.

Electric multiple unit train with traction batteries – Memorandum of understanding for funding project

At InnoTrans Minister Dobrindt also presented a memorandum of understanding to the company Bombardier for the BEMU project (Battery Electrical Multiple Unit). The testing of an electric multiple unit train equipped with traction batteries will be funded in real traffic on non- or partly-electrified routes.
The BMVI is funding this innovative development with around 4 million euro within the Electromobility funding guideline. The overall volume of the investment amounts to 8.6 million euro.

An electric multiple unit train of the type Talent 2 equipped with traction batteries will be run on non- or partly-electrified regional train routes. The focus of the project is to establish technical feasibility, studying the overall economic efficiency while considering environmental aspects as well as operational and financial background and the comparison to conventional diesel vehicles. In addition recommendations for action will be developed for operators, service providers and transport planners. The train to be developed is a first-time application for the European market. Internal projections from Bombardier come to the conclusion that as a result of replacements, from 2020 there could be an annual potential of 200 battery multiple unit trains.