Germans pull the breaks on hydrogen trains

Germans pull the breaks on hydrogen trains following the first actual tests, the findings demonstrating how much more expensive this alternative is when compared to standard electric or battery solutions.

The state of Baden-Württemberg was one of the first to wager on hydrogen trains. On 16 distinct lines, a small fleet of hydrogen fuel cell-powered trains has been operating to learn more about the capabilities and restrictions of the technology. As a result, hydrogen completely failed.

Hydrogen fuel cell trains “will no longer be considered in the foreseeable future for a variety of operational and financial reasons,” according to officials in charge of the effort.

State transport minister Winfried Hermann outlined the benefits and drawbacks of the three electric solutions under consideration in a report: traditional electric trains, battery hybrid trains, and hydrogen trains.

Results of hydrogen trains tests

The advantages of hydrogen trains include reduced effect during operation and transition because no modifications to the rail infrastructure are required. The drawbacks, however, were undeniable and some of them stood out, including the high cost of the infrastructure for refueling, low efficiency, high energy consumption, the high cost of hydrogen itself, the limited supply of green hydrogen, and the requirement to constantly top off the service stations’ deposits.

The state has provided estimated figures for the cost of the infrastructure over a 30-year period using several techniques. The result is that a hydrogen system would have an overall cost of ownership of 849 million euros. A sum comparable to the 588 million euros for traditional electric trains or the 506 million euros for an electric type driven by batteries.

Accordingly, a battery-powered or traditional electric model will cost between 31 and 67% less than the hydrogen vehicle in this series. However, these variations greatly depend on the line. For instance, on the Nagoldtalbahn, the cost would be 81% less for the battery-electric variant (262 million euros) if hydrogen were used.

Given this situation, experts have advised state officials to replace diesel locomotives with battery-powered electric trains in three of the six subnetworks and to use conventional electric trains in the other three, though they have also added that in each case the cost difference between battery-electric and overhead power lines would be “small” or “very small”.

Another issue has been added to the list of causes, in addition to the high cost of infrastructure and hydrogen, and that is the uncertainty around how much green hydrogen will be accessible in the upcoming years for hydrogen trains.

See the full report here.


Siemens has created two-car, regional hydrogen trains with a next-generation hydrogen motor system for the project’s one-year trial run. The locomotive is propelled by two separate systems, each of which consists of a fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery. Depending on operational conditions like the season or route, the Mireo Plus H has a range of up to 800 kilometers and is as powerful as an electric multiple-unit train. The range for a three-car version is up to 1,000 kilometers. The train has low lifespan costs as a result of its lower maintenance and repair expenses. 160 kilometers per hour is the highest speed of the Mireo Plus H.

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