The debate over the role of hydrogen in the future of rail transport has heated up in Bavaria, with passenger association Pro Bahn Bayern firmly declaring that hydrogen is “meaningless” for local rail passenger transport in the state.
This stance comes in response to a recent photo opportunity involving Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Hubert Aiwanger, who has been an advocate for hydrogen in various sectors.
A Clear Stand Against Hydrogen
Pro Bahn Bayern’s chairman, Lukas Iffländer, has not minced words, asserting that hydrogen’s significance in Bavaria’s mobility lies chiefly in providing photo opportunities for politicians, diverting attention from essential issues, and squandering taxpayers’ money. According to the passenger association, Bavaria has already made its decision regarding rail transport: it’s all about electrification on the tracks and electromobility on the roads.
The preferred method is the use of battery electric multiple units (BEMU) and overhead lines. Pro Bahn Bayern contends that with the expansion of overhead lines and a well-thought-out strategy for recharging trains, Bavaria can achieve full electrification in a relatively short time. They emphasize that this requires strong political commitment.
The Hydrogen Proponent: Hubert Aiwanger
Hubert Aiwanger has been an outspoken advocate for hydrogen, often accusing those who oppose it of accepting the gradual deindustrialization of Bavaria and Germany. However, critics argue that hydrogen might not be the best fit for certain sectors, including public transport in Bavaria.
Hydrogen Rail Projects in Germany: Mixed Outcomes
Germany has seen only a few hydrogen rail projects, with battery-powered trains taking the spotlight due to their reliability and lower costs. One notable example is the Coradia iLint project in the Taunus region near Frankfurt, where hydrogen trains faced delays and technical issues, leading to criticism.
Lower Saxony has opted for BEMU over hydrogen trains for economic reasons, and Austria’s Zillertal hydrogen train project has faced escalating costs.
The Heidekrautbahn near Berlin represents a significant upcoming hydrogen project. Owned by the Niederbarnimer Eisenbahn (NEB), this railway has not been electrified. It will employ seven Siemens hydrogen-electric trains (Mireo Plus H) running on locally produced green hydrogen, a project that will serve as a litmus test for hydrogen’s viability in rail transport.