High speed Renfe at Barcelona

EU-funding to help develop a hydrogen-powered train

The European Commission will start negotiations for a grant agreement value of 10 million euros towards the development of a hydrogen-powered train prototype. The FCH2RAIL project will be carried out by a consortium led by CAF. The funding will go towards design, manufacturing and testing for validation and approval.

The prototype’s main goal is to achieve zero emissions with a hydrogen operating performance that can be applied to refurbished and new trains. It is hoped that the European committee can play an essential part with participation for railway standardisation to advance the drafting and updating of standards. Their required conditions allow integration of the fuel cell technology in the European railway networks.

The consortium which is formed by CAF, DLR, Renfe, Toyota Motor Europe, Adif, IP, CNH2 and Faiveley Stemmann Technik has started to finish the agreement on the project and what each member will work on. The companies have in planning to kick-off the project in January 2021 that is expected to last for approximately four years. The consortium expects to spend 14 million euros of which 10 million is from the European funds.


The concept idea uses the design and manufacturing of a model on the existing Renfe’s 3-car commuter unit belonging to Civia Series. The new power generator system will be hydrogen-based and will combine with the vehicles existing system. The combination will become one of the first examples of a bi-mode railway system.

The vehicle concept is aimed to have the ability to operate in electric mode on electrified infrastructure and the hybrid mode on catenary-less sections. The track testing phase will begin to optimize the hybridization solution and the bi-mode operation (electric/hydrogen).


The validation of this project will take place in three European countries. It has been added that the project will also adjust to the research made on various solutions for using the heat generated by the hydrogen fuel cell system as a means to improve energy efficiency.

Project members have noted that even though the deployment of electrified vehicles are on a rise, the hydrogen-based prototype has high-cost limitations and could take decades to be completed. Currently, half of the railway lines in the EU are operated with diesel trains generating air and noise pollution.

According to public and private transport authorities in the EU there is a growing interest in hydrogen fuel cell technology in the railway industry. The consortium hopes this project development will become an alternative to diesel trains to help combat climate change.

Author: Sarah Chebaro

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