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Siemens and Deutsche Bahn test hydrogen train and mobile fueling station for first time

Roland Busch, CEO of Siemens AG, Dr. Richard Lutz, CEO of Deutsche Bahn, and Hartmut Höppner, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV), took their first ride in the Mireo Plus H hydrogen train and then demonstrated the train’s refueling procedure using a mobile hydrogen fueling station.


Hydrogen technology is planned to replace diesel-powered trainsets in regional transport in the future. Siemens Mobility and Deutsche Bahn presented the H2goesRail project to the public in November 2020. In addition to the refueling and commissioning tests conducted over recent months, DB employees have been trained to operate the system when it enters service.

The project is being funded with €13.74 million by the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport as part of the National Innovation Program for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP 2). NIP 2 is coordinated by NOW (National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology) GmbH and is being implemented by project lead Jülich.

For the project’s one-year trial operation, Siemens has developed a two-car regional train using a next-generation hydrogen drive system. The train operates with two propulsion systems, each consisting of a fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery. The Mireo Plus H is as powerful as an electric multiple-unit train and has a range of up to 800 kilometers—depending on operating conditions such as season or route. A three-car variant has a range of up to 1,000 kilometers. Due to its reduced maintenance and repair costs, the train has low lifecycle costs. The Mireo Plus H has a top speed of 160 kilometers an hour.

One key factor needed to make hydrogen technology competitive with diesel fuel in daily operation is a fast refueling process. To provide this, DB has developed a new method that, for the first time, enables a hydrogen train to be refueled as fast as a diesel-powered train. This is especially important considering the closely timed scheduling of DB’s regional passenger service.

Hydrogen for the trains will be produced in Tübingen by DB Energy with green electricity taken directly from the overhead power line.

On the route between Tübingen and Pforzheim, for example, switching from diesel to the H2goesRail project train will save around 330 tons of CO2 emissions a year. In general, and depending on the route, the Mireo Plus H can save 520 tons of emissions per year (calculated on a total mileage of 200,000 kilometers).

The Mireo Plus H will begin test runs in Baden-Württemberg in 2023. As of 2024, it will be underway in regular passenger service for the H2goesRail project, operating between Tübingen, Horb and Pforzheim and replacing a diesel railcar currently in use on that route.

The DB maintenance depot in Ulm will be converted to handle the servicing of the hydrogen trains. Extensively trained DB Region staff, supported by Siemens Mobility employees, will service and maintain the trains.

After completing a test phase, the train will enter passenger service in 2024 and operate between Tübingen, Horb and Pforzheim. Approximately 120,000 kilometers of scheduled rail service are planned. The route is particularly suitable for the tests, with its typical regional service frequency and topography.



' Due to its reduced maintenance and repair costs, the train has low lifecycle costs.'

Fuel cell/battery technology is simply better than diesel, and cheaper over the lifetime, already in many heavy duty applications.

' DB has developed a new method that, for the first time, enables a hydrogen train to be refueled as fast as a diesel-powered train. This is especially important considering the closely timed scheduling of DB’s regional passenger service.'

Which is why hydrogen and fuel cells, not batteries. It is plug and play against using diesel, with the 12:15 from Tubingen to Holm arriving at 12:32 still exactly the same as when they were using a diesel train.

No messing, waiting for charging, or anything else.

I am still mystified as to why compressed hydrogen has been chosen rather than methanol with on board reforming.



RIX Industries are the only folk that I have been able to dig out going the methanol with onboard reforming route for trains:

Of course, with hydrogen fc trains up and running in Europe and China and Japan both going down that route, that tech is clearly in the lead.

Even if it is felt by some, such as the knowledgeable sd, that batteries might be a better option, the rationale for fuel cell trains is clearly understandable, even if you don't agree with it, but I have no idea why they are choosing compressed hydrogen rather than the far easier to handle methanol.


They don


They don't talk about gold hydrogen anymore. It is probably because there are too much leaks with this method.



There is plenty of talk about gold hydrogen, aka naturally occurring hydrogen:

They are only just doing the tests to find out exactly where it happens, and whether it is going to be a large scale exploitable resource.

EP argues, not without reason, that if it were substantial, it would have been discovered in quantity when drilling for NG etc.

However, apart from technical reasons such as that hydrogen was what they used to clear the system out when testing for NG, and so they could hardly know whether additional hydrogen had come up out of the well, the conditions for formation may be very different to NG, and it appears to be more of a continuous process than a case of finding buried reservoirs.

But the simple answer is that we don't know at present, and that is what we are trying to find out,

It could be anything from a minor curiosity to a major resource.

But the claim that hydrogen is an energy carrier, not a resource, and does not occur on its own, is palpably false, and anyone making the claim could with trivial research have established that is was false for the last couple of decades.

It can and is extracted in Mali, on its own, and has been for a decade.


It is a bit ironic to have an article about a hydrogen train running on a rail line with an overhead catenary.




Siemens have not got theirs up and running in service yet, so this is presumably their normal electric version.

Alstrom of course have theirs in service, so there are plenty of pics of them running around.


Oops! Just re-read the article, which I should have done before, not after, posting my last!



IMO, a partial catenary/battery train would be very handy.
You can run and charge from the catenary, then go "off grid" for N miles (say 50-100) as required.
This would require a much smaller battery than a full BET.
Also, you could charge it on the move so the turn arounds would be much quicker.
If you were paranoid, you could also add in a diesel generator which could be used in emergencies. (Ideally not at all in normal use).


I tend t agree with mahonj that battery electric with short segments of overhead wire if necessary is a better solution. It is worth noting that Siemens offers their Mireo railcars in both battery electric (Mireo Plus B) and hydrogen fuel cell plus battery (Mireo Plus H) versions. The above article is about the new hydrogen version but the battery version has been available for some time now and I expect that it will outsell the hydrogen version as the overall operating cost (and hassle) will be considerably less. The direct line distance from Tübingen to Horb and on to Pforzheim is only about 80 km but rail lines tend to follow contours and rivers so the distance is probably closer to 120 km which should be well within battery range.


I expect that the North American freight railroads will eventually go with with battery electric with segments of overhead wire as needed. The reason will be the most powerful driver -- economics. The American Locomotive company Progress Rail/EMD (a division of Caterpillar) is offering battery electric locomotives with up to 14.5 MWhr of battery energy.



Interesting they use green hydrogen; the cycle from creating the electricity to then creating the hydrogen that then creates the electricity to run the trains electric motors can't be very efficient. The same old argument prevails; Why not just use the initially created electrons?
Wonder what the motivating factors are to developing such a model; It certainly can't be efficiency and lower costs; just plain old experimentation for discovery? Perhap!



Building even short segments of electrified rail, overhead or not, still cost big money, and one wonders how much you would save as opposed to a continuous rail.

It would also mean that the batteries would need to be charged relatively quickly, which all things being equal decreases lifespan.

Ballard fuel cells in buses are rated for >30,000 hours of operation:

Dunno what the cost of replacing a 14.5MWh battery would be, if you had to, but it would not be cheap.

And whatever the specifics of a run from Tubingen, these fuel cell trains can simply be switched to any other run if you need to, with a range of 800km, or 1000km if it is run in a 3 carriage configuration.

It would also be straightforward to double the range by a switch to 700bar from the 350 used for cost reasons, but the cost of the CF tanks is falling, and the coming much larger volumes should make them easily affordable if needed shortly.

Maybe sometime batteries will fall in cost and increase in all weather performance enough to be in contention outside of the shunting yard, but I really can't see it until the technology changes.

Fuel cell locomotives right now in Europe and India, and presumably in China, are:

Cheaper than diesel in fuel


Lower lifetime costs than diesel

Higher reliability.

Lower maintenance.

Can do anything a diesel train can do with total flexibility.

I really can't see what is not to like.



What is not to like is the fact that every time that you change from energy form to another there are losses. The overall efficiency of going from green electricity to hydrogen using electrolysis and then using a fuel cell to go back to electricity has at least twice the losses of just using a battery and you still need the battery to buffer the fuel cell response although the battery can be much smaller. The other thing not to like is having the deal with high pressure hydrogen.

Also, where in Europe can you take a 1000 or even 800 km (620 or 500 mile) trip on a railcar

We will have to wait and see if Lyten or others come thru with their lithium sulfur batteries which promise to have at least 3 times the energy density as the current lithium ion batteries. They also should have lower cost as they eliminate the manganese, nickle, and cobart and use low cost sulfur instead plus there are promising faster charging. As I said before, the good thing about the hydrogen railcars is that it would be relatively easy to sway out the fuel cell system for more battery power.


Apparently in the US there is up to $3 per kg subsidy in the Inflation Reduction Act for hydrogen from renewables.

For rail the hydrogen can be produced right where the trains refuel, with good efficiency even if the very most efficient technologies are not chosen, so something like 70-90%.

All that is needed then is compression to 350bar, with the latest technologies doing that at very good efficiency.

Almost anywhere in the US dedicated solar arrays can do the job easily.

All the expensive bits of the present provisions for cars in California are avoided, mostly liquifaction and so on to transport it in low volume by tanker to filling stations.

$3 per kg subsidy in the circumstances is ridiculously high in this application, although not for others:

' But priming the pump will take time, says Siemens. It is spending $33 million on electrolyzers in Germany, and that will help build economies of scale — the kind that could drive down the cost of hydrogen produced from wind and solar and make it comparable to natural gas. Hydrogen produced from wind and solar is now at least $2.50 a kilogram. But it must fall to between $0.8 and $1.6 a kilogram to advance. '

With a $3kg subsidy, nothing can compete with hydrogen for rail where the line is not electrified, not diesel, not batteries, nothing.



800-1000 km covers a days journeys in a train, so you don't have to fool around refueling all the time, just like for diesel.

Sure, you can get more nominal efficiency, but the efficiency is already something like doubled compared to present practice, and renewables are becoming so cheap that it is far from the biggest worry.

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