‘Bring fuel consumption to zero’: Germany steams ahead with new H20-powered train

Germany will trial a new hydrogen-powered train, its state-owned rail company said Monday, signalling a transition away from gas-guzzling diesel engines as it aims for a carbon-neutral future.

'Bring fuel consumption to zero': Germany steams ahead with new H20-powered train
A typical Deutsche Bahn train blazing through the countryside in Sorsum, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

Developed with German industrial giant Siemens, Deutsche Bahn said it will build a newly developed train and a “gas station” for 2024 that will for the first time fuel hydrogen trains in just 15 minutes — as fast as conventional diesel engines.

“The fact that we… will refuel the train as quickly as a diesel train shows that the climate-friendly transport transition is possible,” said Sabina Jeschke, a member of Deutsche Bahn's board.

The national rail company intends to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050, meaning 1,300 diesel units will have to be replaced.

“We have to bring fossil fuel consumption to zero… Then we will not run a single vehicle with conventional diesel,” Jeschke added.

Around 39 percent of the German network has no overhead power lines, where trains require their own onboard fuel — such as diesel — to run.

A one-year trial run of the renewable-energy powered train is planned in the Tübingen area of southern Germany, based on a range of 600 kilometres.

The Siemens train will save around 330 tonnes of CO2 a year, Deutsche Bahn said, and have a top speed of 160 kilometres an hour.

Siemens remains well behind its perennial French rival Alstom when it comes
to hydrogen trains.

READ ALSO: World's first hydrogen train to go into service in Lower Saxony

Alstom rolled out the world's first hydrogen-powered train in the northern German state of Lower Saxony in 2018, running a 100-kilometre route previously served by diesel trains.

The TGV-maker has since received 41 orders from Germany for its Coradia iLint train, which also began service in Austria in September.

Hydrogen engines work through a reaction of hydrogen and oxygen to create
electricity, leaving only steam and water as  byproducts.

As part of the country's coronavirus stimulus package, Berlin announced a
nine-billion-euro fund to develop the role of green hydrogen and with the aim of ending use of coal by 2038.

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