Alstom enables hydrogen retrofit of diesel locomotives

An approach to converting diesel locomotives into hydrogen vehicles will be developed in Germany by a collaboration that includes Alstom.

In France, Alstom and Engie are collaborating on the creation of a freight train that will run on both electricity and hydrogen by the year 2025.

At its German facility in Salzgitter, close to Hanover, Alstom is working on a solution for converting diesel locomotives into hydrogen vehicles as part of a collaboration. The consortium member and railroad operator Verkehrsbetriebe Peine-Salzgitter is the owner of the first model in service. The VPS facility will host this locomotive’s testing.

Future conversions will take place at the Alstom facility in Salzgitter, Lower Saxony, which is providing a €1.5 million grant for the project. The group also includes the WTZ Roßlau research institute, TU Braunschweig, the Fraunhofer Institute, and Robert Bosch Elektronik in addition to Alstom and VPS.

Prolonging equipment life

With the introduction of its passenger train specifically designed for regional traffic, Coradia iLint, which is already in use in Germany, Alstom has already established itself as a leader in hydrogen rail transportation. Currently, the organization aims to work on converting diesel shunting locomotives. These latter emit roughly 151 t of CO2 and 4.26 t of nitrogen oxides annually and have an average lifespan of 50 to 70 years. According to Alstom, converting existing locomotives from diesel to hydrogen would result in a notable decrease in CO2 emissions2, a decrease in the cost per hour of operation, and an extension of the useful life of the current rolling stock.

Additionally, the operator would save money by decarbonizing their current fleet rather than buying new ones. Alstom intends to provide a universal conversion kit for current diesel locomotives at the conclusion of the research project.

Dual-mode approach

Since announcing that it will provide Nestlé Waters France with the first hydrogen-powered freight train in 2025 in partnership with Engie, the French company is also working on its own equipment solutions. Electricity from the rail network and hydrogen in non-electrified areas will power this high-power freight train. It will attempt to gradually transfer Vittel natural mineral water between its distribution centers in France (i.e. Vittel/Arles, 600 km, and Vittel/Montreuil-Bellay, 760 km) and the factory situated in the Vosges.

A line-electric locomotive and a generator wagon with a high-power fuel cell system fuelled by renewable hydrogen will make up the dual-mode solution. They will be connected by an electrical power cable. Even without a catenary, the locomotive will be able to receive power from the generating wagon. The designed solution aims to provide long-distance, non-electrified electric locomotive power on a national and European scale.

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