Hydrogen-powered trains could replace diesel engines in Germany


The companies said in a joint statement that tests of a train equipped with a new hydrogen drive will commence in 2024 and run for one year. The two-car train will have a top speed of 160 kilometers per hour (99.4 miles per hour) and it can be recharged in just 15 minutes.

The train, which is called the Mireo Plus H, will run between three cities in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, replacing a conventional diesel-powered unit running on the route. The new hydrogen drive will save around 330 tons of CO2 a year, the companies said.

“Hydrogen drives are an advanced, emission-free form of propulsion that will help decarbonize rail transport and make a significant contribution toward achieving our climate targets,” Siemens (SIEGY) Mobility CEO Michael Peter said in a statement.

Deutsche Bahn operates around 1,300 diesel trains in regional service, and roughly 40% of its 33,000 kilometer (20,500 mile) rail network has not yet been electrified -— meaning trains can’t run using overhead power lines. The company plans to eliminate diesel trains from its network by 2050.

An image of the Mireo Plus H provided by Siemens.

The Mireo Plus H will be powered by a battery and fuel cells that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. The two-car train will have a range of 600 kilometers (373 miles), and Siemens said it would also develop a three-car version with a range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).

“Whether powered by overhead line electricity or hydrogen — the decisive factor is that the energy comes from renewable sources,” Baden-Württemberg transport minister Winfried Hermann said in a statement. “This country wants to be a pioneer in modern, sustainable rail transport.”

Hydrogen has long been considered a promising energy source for rail networks. France’s Alstom (ALSMY) tested a hydrogen-powered train in northern Germany between 2018 and 2020, and has expanded the service into some routes in Austria.

European regulators blocked Siemens’ proposed acquisition of Alstom in 2019, saying the merger would have harmed competition in railway signaling systems and very high-speed trains.

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