World’s largest fleet of hydrogen trains to operate in Taunus region of Germany

World’s largest fleet of hydrogen trains to operate in Taunus region of Germany

A Frankfurt-based transport association is set to put 27 hydrogen-powered trains into action in the mountainous Taunus region of Hesse from December.

Hydrogen trains to start operating in Germany in December

The world’s largest fleet of hydrogen trains is set to start ferrying passengers around the Taunus region in December. The trains are expected to commence operations with the routine timetable change and will run on the RB 11 (Frankfurt - Höchst-Bad Soden), RB 12 (Frankfurt - Königstein), RB 15 (Frankfurt - Brandoberndorf) and RB 16 (Bad Homburg - Friedberg) lines.

The hydrogen trains will replace the old diesel trains. Manufactured by Alstom, the new trains use an onboard fuel cell to generate electricity to move forward, with the only waste products being water vapour and heat. They also match up to diesel trains in terms of range and refuelling, with a range of 1.000 kilometres and a refuelling time of around 15 minutes.

The new hydrogen trains can travel up to 140 kilometres an hour. Each unit is 45 metres long and boasts 160 seats, with space to accommodate up to 300 passengers. Diesel trains, on the other hand, only have 120 seats per unit.

Frankfurt-Höchst industrial park at centre of hydrogen train network

The hydrogen train project has cost around 500 million euros, and includes the supply of hydrogen to the trains at the Frankfurt-Höchst industrial park. Tracks have been laid at the industrial park and four refuelling pumps are currently being installed. The hydrogen used to power the trains is produced as a by-product at the park already, with around seven tons being collected there every day. However, only a third of it can be used effectively.

Joachim Kreysing, Managing Director of Infraserv, the company that operates the industrial park, has admitted that the hydrogen produced at Industriepark Höchst is not “green” as it is not produced by “green” electricity. However, the sustainable use of hydrogen to power trains that only produce water vapour and heat as waste products is a significant development in the fight to protect the environment and against climate change.

A five-megawatt electrolyser is also being built to produce hydrogen in case hydrogen production stalls at Industriepark Höchst. An electrolyser is capable of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, thus ensuring the supply of hydrogen for refuelling.

DB subsidiary to take over operation of hydrogen trains

The local federal state has provided around 2,5 million euros for the installation of rail infrastructure at Industriepark Höchst and has also invested 800.000 euros into the planning and construction of the fuelling station. The total costs associated with the industrial park amount to around 30 million euros, according to Kreysing, half of which is paid for by the federal and state governments, while the other half has been funded by Infraserv.

Deutsche Bahn subsidiary Start will take over the operation of the Taunus network following the commencement of the hydrogen trains. Until then, the network will continue to be run by the state-owned Hessian State Railway (HLB). Deutsche Bahn has already stated its intention to be climate neutral by 2040, with Jörg Sandvoß (CEO of DB Regio) saying hydrogen is a “key technology” for making regional public transport emissions-free.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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