Mr. Christoph Grimm put on a yellow vest and walked out of the office. Outside, in front of the recently renovated train station of the Bremervörder-Osterholz railway line, a hydrogen workshop is being built.
He was excited when his company recently gained fame as the world’s first company to use hydrogen ships. They now have six hydrogen-powered trains that run regularly between different cities in the region, instead of diesel trains. Thanks to hydrogen fuel cells, trains can run emission-free.
“All relevant transmission components such as the tank and fuel cell are located on the roof of the hydrogen train,” explains Mr. Grim out. That required a completely different maintenance system, so we built a new workshop. With diesel trains, they are placed under the vehicle.”
The world’s first hydrogen train
Mr. Grimm is CEO of the Elbe-Weserbahn (EVB). The company has been maintaining rail traffic in the region for more than 40 years. EVB also operates container transport services between German northern and southern seaports and between various provinces and cities. The hydrogen train is the pride of EVB.
Owning the world’s first hydrogen-powered train came into use mainly thanks to train manufacturer Alstom, based in the nearby town of Salzgitter. EVB’s rail network is also very suitable for running hydrogen trains because it is not electrified.
However, EVB’s hydrogen train project is most dependent on government support to get through the early stages. Hydrogen fuel cells are very expensive. A transportation company donated $81 million ($85 million) towards the purchase of the trains. The money also comes from the federal government’s “National Hydro Strategy” grant.
One of the new trains must always be in the workshop because the hydrogen tank and battery must be regularly checked and maintained. Hydrogen trains are refueled at a purpose-built station. Two tons of hydrogen produced from the city of Stade will be stored there. Mr Grimm said: “The Stade is an important location for the chemical industry. Hydrogen is produced there as a by-product.”
The electrolysis of water into individual chemical elements, including hydrogen and oxygen, consumes enormous amounts of electricity. If gas or coal-fired power plants drive the electrolysis, the resulting hydrogen is called gray hydrogen in this case.
CO2 emissions are only really reduced if the electricity for electrolysis comes from renewable energy. Its development is expected to take 4 years. The wind turbines will then run next to the hydrogen filling station in Bremervörde.
Ask for hydrogen ships
The hydrogen train has a tank of 130 kg and a fuel cell per car. The train can cover about 800 km per day in normal traffic conditions. Train manufacturer Alstom oversees the maintenance of their trains in Bremervörde.
An important question now is where the market for hydrogen ships can open up? Mr Grimm suggested that some companies wanting to go green could choose to use electricity or use hydrogen ships.
All 14 trains ordered by his company will be put into operation next summer, replacing diesel trains on the Weser-Elbe rail network.
Mr Grimm confirmed that some rail lines in Frankfurt will be converted to hydrogen trains by 2023. Other countries are also starting to show interest in this future technology. The Irish Transport Minister and a delegation from Australia have announced that they will soon be visiting Bremervörde.
According to DW