The project aimed to research and develop hybrid fuel cell drive systems for rail applications. Two hydrogen-run rail cars, including the necessary provision of hydrogen, were to be researched, developed and built.
As part of the BetHY NIP project, which ran from September 2013 until October 2016, Alstom and the Institute of Vehicle Concepts (FK) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) conducted comprehensive work towards the concept and development of a drive system based on hydrogen fuel cell technology for the CORADIA LINT rail car platform. Compared with other tests looking into this technology, fuel cell aggregates with vastly higher power densities and thereby with a more compact installation space were for the first time conceived, tested under realistic conditions and then installed in rail cars for the transport of passengers. The use of fuel cell-run rail vehicles had previously been limited to prototypes and some few special vehicles for underground applications. As no comparable vehicle (a rail car for regional transport) had to date been equipped with a fuel cell drive, this project provided the opportunity to prove the suitability for deployment of this low emission and efficient technology while also expanding Germany’s technology leadership. With implementation in a, for fuel cell applications, new vehicle class, the project represented a pioneering project for rail vehicles in the passenger rail transport area and can serve as an innovative model project for future vehicle conversions.
As a result of the project, the necessary research and development work for the introduction of fuel cell-driven rail vehicles was advanced. Insights on the development of future series vehicles and thereby for the substitution of diesel drives could be obtained and corresponding experience gained. Following a targeted selection of components for fuel cell systems, battery systems and the remaining drive components (e.g. power converters, traction motors), the drive systems were examined on the test bench in order to obtain first indications for their suitability for deployment in the vehicle. Subsequent to the laboratory trials, two test vehicles – each with two drive units – were constructed. Through the construction and test operation of the hydrogen demonstration vehicles, test bench and later field data could be collected and analysed, which can flow into future series development. Accompanying standardisation and committee work was being conducted to create the prerequisites for the approval of the vehicles by the relevant authority, the Federal Railway Office (EBA – Eisenbahnbundesamt).
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