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Hydrogen tram development is advancing

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The objective is for trams to be devoid of overhead lines and CO2 emissions, replacing them with a fuel cell-powered train.

When hydrogen is consumed, all that is left is water vapor and heat. “A feasibility analysis determined that a hydrogen tram is feasible when combined with additional equipment and the development of new infrastructure,” Marcel Dinter, vehicle technology specialist at Alstom’s Saxon facility in Bautzen, explains. Alstom’s engineers are the first in the world to have created a hydrogen-powered passenger train, which will enter service in 2018. Germany will begin using hydrogen-powered trains in 2022.

Leipzig’s tram network is also expanding. Three new routes will be introduced, some of which will be located far from the city core. The National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology, or NOW for short, views this as a hydrogen opportunity. The new development is meant to assist cities in developing districts and locations where no overhead wires are being erected for ecological or traffic reasons. The Federal Ministry of Transport is investing 2.1 million euros in the construction of a hydrogen tram via NOW.

“Saxony is home to Europe’s first hydrogen train,” Volkmar Vogel of Hörmann Vehicle Engineering in Chemnitz firmly states. The rail vehicle developers hope to place a prototype on the rails within the next four years in collaboration with the Leipzig tram maker and the company Flexiva Automation & Robotik. “This future railway will have a long service life, low maintenance costs, and zero emissions. Additionally, we produce pure air “Vogel asserts. For two years, the development team has been working on the subject.

Since 2019, China has been testing the world’s first hydrogen-powered tram pilot, and a prototype has been in service in South Korea since April. According to Vogel, the South Korean Ministry of Transport intends to invest an additional $30 to $40 million to further improve the tram and bring it to Europe as an export hit.

The Saxon rail vehicle producers want to use their engineering expertise to compete against the competition from the Far East – and to be faster. When developing the prototype, the following points should be kept in mind: “As a hybrid, the tram must be capable of operating on hydrogen and overhead wires, as the vehicles will be integrated into the city’s usual network.

Despite the additional weight of the hydrogen tanks, the tram must remain lightweight in order to continue operating on previously established routes. We need to make better use of waste heat. This is critical for serial operation “Samuel Kermelk, Managing Director of HeiterBlick.

The world’s largest electrolysis facility with a capacity of over 100 megawatts is to be erected in Leuna, about 50 kilometers from Leipzig, for the manufacture of “green hydrogen” that will be distributed in liquefied form to filling stations and industrial firms. The “Hydrogen Lab Görlitz” is establishing a research platform for hydrogen technologies in the Lausitz area. The Fraunhofer organization conducts research on hydrogen generation and storage, as well as its usage in mobile and stationary fuel cells. The Free State contributes 30 million euros to the project.

Nedim Husomanovic

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