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Deutsche Bahn has partnered with industry leaders and universities to explore alternative fuel sources and bid a final ’farewell’ to diesel to become climate-neutral by 2050. 
Germany is known for its ambitious climate goals, especially in the transportation sector. The country is currently in the process of shifting a majority of transportation to rail, not only for commuters but as an alternative to road, sea, and air cargo. However, a major roadblock is standing in the way. Only 39 per cent of the railway system is electric, leaving 13.000 kilometres of untapped potential. For its part, Deutsche Bahn is testing hybrid diesel, battery-powered locomotives, and hydrogen propulsion systems.

“Sustainability is part of the company’s DNA. Our ambition is to become the green pillar for sustainable transport in Germany by developing and optimising alternatives to fossil fuels. This means we have to keep on the forefront of research and innovation in carbon neutral transport solutions,” says Christian Höcker, the head of Deutsche Bahn’s Climate Neutral Programme:

In partnership with Siemens Mobility, the company is developing new vehicles and infrastructure, and testing the use of hydrogen for rail transport.

Höcker is quick to point out that there is still plenty of room for technological evolution when it comes to alternative forms of transportation, namely: “weight, reach, as well as recharging and refuelling infrastructure are some of the challenges that need to be addressed.”
While the company is eager to transform the railway industry. It is a serious challenge and it will require collaboration, knowledge exchange, and top notch research to do so.

“In order to come up with pioneering solutions for diesel alternatives, we’re collaborating with several German universities, including Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and Technische Universität Dresden. For example, with KIT, we’re seeking opportunities to use hydrogen-burning engines, are testing alter- native fuels like hydrotreated vegetable oils, and are measuring particle emissions,” says Höcker.

Deutsche Bahn’s test lab – TrainLab – is open to industry, research institutions, and university partners to run pilot projects. This is where Deutsche Bahn is shaping the future of transportation, safety guidelines, and alternative fuels to reduce their environmental footprint.

The Hydrogen Project:

A one-year trial run of the train is planned in the Tübingen area, thanks to the support of Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Transport. More recently, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) also announced funding support for the project.

Source: Deutsche Bahn press release