ZURICH – Hydrogen-powered trains with ranges of up to 1,000 km are being trialed by Germany’s Siemens (SIEGn.DE) which sees them as an emissions-free solution on routes without overhead power cables.
Trains that use hydrogen to charge an onboard battery extend the range from around 100 km for battery only-trains, making them viable for long-distance routes without overhead lines, Michael Peter, head of Siemens Mobility, said.
Hydrogen-powered are also cheaper and quicker to introduce than hydrogen trucks because they do not need a broad network of fuel stations to support them, Peter said in an interview for the Reuters Next conference.
“In Europe there are 20,000 rail vehicles which could be replaced by hydrogen in the next 15 years,” Peter said.
Siemens trains work with a hydrogen generator which charges an on-board electric battery that powers an electric motor.
The battery is only used to deliver high peak power for fast acceleration, and reach speeds of up to 160 km per hour.
The technology, which is being trialed by Siemens in Germany next year, will make a significant contribution to environmental goals, Peter said.
“Around 80% of railway traffic already runs on electrified lines, that is 100% green. For the remaining 20%, mass transportation is cleaner – even if it is diesel – than an individual car,” Peter said.
“If we want to meet our climate targets, transport, in general, should strive to be 100% clean.”
Siemens Mobility declined to give details of the costs of the trains, although hydrogen-powered ones are usually more costly than electric-only versions.
But over the long term, this can be reduced by their long lifespan, with trains that can cover 400,000 km a year for 40 years and can also be recycled.