German hydrogen pioneer opts for battery trains for remainder of fleet

The premiere of the world's first hydrogen train on 24 August 2022 evb / Sabrina Adeline Nagel

German regional transport authority LNVG, which put the world’s first hydrogen trains into passenger service, will replace its remaining diesel fleet with battery trains, the state of Lower Saxony announced. Battery trains were found to be the cheaper option, and 102 battery electric multiple units are expected to be put out to tender later this year. 

It made headlines last year when the world’s first hydrogen trains, built by Alstom, were put into in passenger service on the tracks near Bremervörde in the state Lower Saxony. The operator of the hydrogen trains is the EVB on behalf of the state’s the public transport authority LNVG. The project involved 14 hydrogen trains in total, and the state of Lower Saxony invested over 85 million euros in the vehicles, with an additional 8.4 million euros from the German federal government.

For the remainder of the 126 diesel trains operated on its network, LNVG started a market research into alternative drivers, where hydrogen drives and batteries were considered. The result: battery trains are cheaper to run on the network. “From 2029 we will successively use 102 new multiple units with battery technology that are emission-free – and thus phase out existing diesel fleets”, says Lower Saxony’s Transport Minister Olaf Lies. The regional transport company (LNVG) is making preparations so that the vehicles can be put out to tender this year. The Transport Minister expects an investment in the high three-digit million range for all vehicles.

Additional electrification

The first network in which diesel trains will be replaced by battery trains will be the Heidekreuz network from 2029. In the other networks, the last diesel vehicles should go off the track with the expansion of the infrastructure by 2037. Market research by LNVG has shown that it is particularly economical to completely electrify the Osnabrück – Oldenburg route. Minister Lies: “We want Deutsche Bahn to expand the connection with overhead lines by 2034. This not only serves local transport, but generally increases the flexibility of the entire rail system in the event of disruptions.”

The LNVG will use 27 electric multiple units on this connection, without an additional battery. The route between Osnabrück and Bremen will be operated by 19 battery vehicles. Charging islands are to be built on the section to supply the trains with electricity.

Vehicles that have not yet reached the usual service life of 30 years are used for diesel operation in networks that are not yet electrified. Carmen Schwabl, spokeswoman for the LNVG management: “These younger diesel vehicles have a better environmental balance and will receive the planned complete modernisation. The interim solutions also bring improvements for passengers and the environment.” The trains will be equipped with doors for the network’s two different platform heights for better accessibility, and more space for bicycles is also planned.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Former Editor RailTech.com

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