How Hydrogen-powered trains can solve the electrification gap

Throughout the European Union about 46 %* of all train routes still rely on diesel to operate local trains in conditions where electrification is either not possible or simply not implemented yet. At NPROXX, we strongly believe that pressurized hydrogen gas is the perfect solution to replace fossil fuel in almost every instance.

“There’s huge potential for hydrogen-powered trains and battery-electric trains to replace diesel-power,” says Johannes Lorenz, NPROXX Director Marketing & Sales. “In many scenarios, the installation of high-voltage cabling above the tracks is not achievable because of the line’s physical logistics such as low tunnels or heavily built-up areas. Even weather conditions can affect this, for example in areas with prevailing high winds. Expense is a factor, too: it costs approximately €1m per kilometre to cable a train line for electrification. So there are strong business cases for replacing diesel with emission-free, hydrogen-powered trains. And any railway that isn’t currently cabled is a potential target for future replacement by either a battery electric vehicle or a fuel cell electric vehicle.”

Most train systems are purchased by operators planning for a lifecycle of 25 to 30 years, and this adds to the impetus to remove fossil fuels from new train investments. “Mankind is abandoning the combustion engine, so buying a diesel-powered train system makes no sense,” says Lorenz. “The longer the system’s lifecycle, the more pressing it is to get started with emission-free power solutions.”

Nevertheless, the safe and effective integration of hydrogen storage is a challenging task. “We’ve found that our train builder partners need our expertise and support to design innovative hydrogen storage solutions that will fit effectively into the spaces available in passenger train carriages,” continues Lorenz. “Once we know the design spaces that are available to install storage tanks and delivery mechanisms, and the requirements for the train’s volume and range, we can design solutions that optimize the use of space and safely achieve the maximum range in a good balance with passengers’ needs.”

One unique advantage that NPROXX offers its customers is longevity. “We have a long and strong track record of creating carbon fibre systems that can operate continuously for decades,” says Lorenz. “An NPROXX tank system will last for a train’s entire lifecycle without needing to be replaced. They are low-maintenance by design and fully compliant with the train’s specific maintenance requirements of trains, and the operational safety features and restrictions that trains have. Our tank systems offer increased lifecycle, more space for passengers and faster fill cycles than any other product on the market.”