CAF to use green hydrogen for pilot project

Spanish rolling stock manufacturer CAF partners with energy company Iberdrola for the use of green hydrogen in rail. Iberdrola will deliver green hydrogen for the pilot project of a Renfe Civia train prototype refitted with hydrogen fuel cells, which starts tests this year.

Hydrogen is often hailed as a sustainable fuel, because vehicles running on hydrogen emit nothing but water vapour. However, it also takes energy to produce hydrogen, and that energy is not always green. To make their hydrogen train pilot project run on renewable, green hydrogen, CAF signed a framework agreement with the Spanish Iberdrola.

Dual-mode hydrogen prototype

In a project headed by CAF, a hydrogen train prototype based on a Renfe Civia series commuter train will be fitted with a new electric generator system based on both hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. This will turn the existing electric train into a dual mode system, also being able to run on non-electrified sections of the rail network.

The project is well underway, and tests are due to start in April this year for the new train CAF has developed at its Zaragoza plant as part of the European FCH2RAIL (Fuel Cell Hybrid Power Pack for Rail Applications) project. These trains will be powered by green hydrogen supplied by Iberdrola from its Barcelona plant. Toyota will deliver the fuel cell modules for the project.

Renewable hydrogen

In 2019, less than 0.1% of global dedicated hydrogen production came from water electrolysis, known as ‘green hydrogen’, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (ICA) from that year. While the share of renewable hydrogen has possibly grown in the meantime, it is still a fraction of total hydrogen produced, because the costs are a lot higher. However, with declining costs for renewable electricity, in particular from solar and wind, there is growing interest in electrolytic hydrogen.

Renewable hydrogen production costs continue to fall more swiftly than previously expected. The Hydrogen Council expects overall hydrogen cost to decline about 60 per cent between 2020 and 2030. According to a study for the Council executed by McKinsey, the cost of renewable hydrogen could break even with gray hydrogen, produced with gas, before 2030 in optimal regions.

Production in Spain

Iberdrola already has two operational green hydrogen production plants in Spain. The green hydrogen used for this pilot project will be supplied from Iberdrola’s new Barcelona plant, which was set into operation at the beginning of 2022.

This hydrogen plant is located in Barcelona’s Free Trade Zone, near the city’s airport and has been supplying green hydrogen for TMB buses since January 2022, and is the first commercial and renewable hydrogen plant in Spain, according to the company.

Another goal of the agreement is to improve the renewable hydrogen value chain in the railway sector and passenger transport, ‘helping to encourage local companies to develop their technology and production capacity to drive sector transformation in Spain and compete on the international market’.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor RailTech.com

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