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Germany: Rhineland-Palatinate Commissions Pilot Feasibility Study on Operation of a Battery and a Hydrogen Train

By June 29, 2020 5   min read  (838 words)

June 29, 2020 |

Electromobility, including the option to use renewable energy sources, is already a reality in local rail passenger transport (SPNV), whose transport performance is provided nationwide to over 80% electrically and therefore locally emission-free. In this way, the SPNV makes an important contribution to achieving the climate policy goals.

Despite the progressive electrification of the route network, not all routes can be electrified in the SPNV in the long term. However, in order to be able to turn away from operation with diesel vehicles here, vehicles with alternative forms of drive are needed that draw their electricity from energy storage devices.

There are currently two major technology paths that should be pursued in the SPNV from the perspective of industry players. These are fuel cell vehicles (“hydrogen trains”) and battery-electric trains (“battery trains”). These two drive technologies are still in the testing phase, but are already delivering results that make us confident.

Even in Rhineland-Palatinate, some SPNV routes will not be electrifiable in the long term. That is why the Ministry of Economy, Transport, Agriculture and Viticulture (MWVLW) is working together with the two SPNV special-purpose associations for the use of alternative forms of drive in SPNV.

Against this background, at the meeting of the association meeting in August 2019, the SPNV-Nord decided to award a feasibility study on the practicality of alternative drive types in cooperation with the MWVLW, which has now been commissioned.


“From the point of view of the SPNV-Nord and the district of Ahrweiler, we very much welcome the fact that alternative drives in the north of Rhineland-Palatinate should be tested as part of the feasibility study and that the Ahr Valley Railway is included,” said District Administrator Dr. Jürgen Pföhler, association leader of SPNV-Nord and association director Thorsten Müller. “This enables us to gain valuable experience in the use of future-oriented technologies in our association area and make an important contribution to climate protection.”


The aim is to avoid using diesel vehicles in Rhineland-Palatinate in order to achieve climate policy goals in the context of the energy and transport transition.

The subject of this study is the investigation of the general conditions (financing, time frame, etc.) of a test operation of a battery and a hydrogen train in the SPNV-Nord. The Ahr Valley Railway Remagen – Ahrbrück, the Pellenz-Eifel Railway Andernach –

Kaisersesch and routes of the Westerwald network of the 3LänderBahn can be examined more closely.

Contrary to fear, this does not mean abandoning the plans to electrify the Ahr Valley Railway, which the SPNV-Nord is sticking to together with the MWVLW.

Since there is only limited experience with alternative drives in rail transport, pilot projects are particularly needed. The aim is not to develop new vehicles, but rather to test the solutions offered by the industry for their suitability for everyday use in order to gain experience for use in subsequent assignments.

The feasibility study forms the basis for the planned test operation of a battery and hydrogen train in the north of Rhineland-Palatinate. The pilot applications are intended to familiarize more closely with the railway companies involved in the innovative drive technologies and clarify how they work under real conditions Operating conditions behave on site.

The MWVLW expressly welcomes and supports the commitment to alternative forms of drive in the north of Rhineland-Palatinate, which as project partners are also involved in the upcoming implementation of the feasibility study.

The pragmatic approach particularly appeals to State Secretary Andy Becht, who says: “While the other projects consistently rely on the full approach of the new technologies and diesel trains serve as a fallback level, the Rhineland-Palatinate approach also sees the comparison the proven diesel technology so that a complete picture of the readiness for use of the new technologies can be obtained. Questions like robustness, suitability for practical use as well as operational and personnel effects can be experienced directly. ”

In order to select a suitable service provider for the study, a hands-on award was made in competition with requests for offers from six qualified consulting companies. After examining and evaluating the five offers submitted on time, in early May 2020 Ramboll Deutschland GmbH was awarded the contract to carry out the feasibility study for pilot projects with vehicles with alternative
drives in the SPNV-Nord.

Ramboll Deutschland GmbH is the center of excellence for local public transport within the international Ramboll Group. The experienced team Mobility & Rail from Berlin with Mr. Michael Holzhey as project manager oversees the feasibility study for pilot projects with vehicles with alternative drives in the SPNV-Nord.

“It is logical that the SPNV-Nord wants to test the available technologies of the industry for alternative drives in concrete field use in order to gain experience for long-term investment strategies,” emphasizes Mr. Holzhey. “What is new here is the explicit pluralistic approach. While other public authorities rely on a certain technology from the start or attempt to decide the technology question in an abstract invitation to tender, the Rhineland-Palatinate approach deliberately allows a direct cross-comparison of the technologies in daily use. “

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