The European Commission’s Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) awarded a EUR 10 million grant to the FCH2RAIL consortium, technically led by CAF to design, develop and test a hydrogen fuel train prototype. The project would benefit European funding under the H2020 Programme.
The project phases will cover both the design and manufacturing of an innovative prototype, in addition to all the tests required for validation and approval.
The FCH2RAIL consortium comprises CAF, DLR, Renfe, Toyota Motor Europe, Adif, IP, CNH2 and Faiveley Stemmann Technik. The consortium has started the process to wrap up a contractual agreement establishing the project scope of each consortium member. This process is expected to be completed before the end of the year, after which the project would kick-off in January 2021.
Once launched, the project will extend for approximately 4 years, drawing from a budget more than EUR 14 million, with approximately 70% being supported by European funds.
The project proposal includes the design and manufacturing of a prototype based on the existing Renfe’s 3-car commuter unit belonging to Civia series. The new power generator system based on the hybridisation of hydrogen fuel cell systems and LTO batteries, will combine with the vehicle existing traction system to become one of the first bi-mode railway demonstrators fitted with hydrogen fuel cell systems. This vehicle concept contemplates the ability to run in electric mode on the electrified infrastructure and operate the hybrid mode for running on catenary-free sections.
The track testing phase will start to optimise the hybridisation solution and the electric-hydrogen (bi-mode) operation.
The validation process will take place in three European countries, with varying levels of qualification and approval in Spain and Portugal and a third country still to be determined. The project will also comprise the research of various solutions for exploiting the heat generated by the hydrogen fuel cell system to improve energy efficiency.
An essential part of the project is the participation of European committees for railway standardisation in order to advance the drafting of new standards and the update of existing standards with the required conditions to integrate the fuel cell technology in the European railway networks.
CAF says that despite the deployment of traditional track electrification programmes currently under way, this effort is limited by high cost constraints and will, at any rate, take decades to be completed. As of today, half of the railway lines in the EU are not electrified but are operated with diesel trains which generate air and noise pollution.
This project underpins the commitment to the development of this innovative technology in a challenge to become a competitive alternative to diesel trains within the current decarbonisation framework.
The goal is to achieve a zero emissions product with competitive operating performance relative to current diesel engine powered trains, and applicable to both newly designed trains and refurbishments.