Interest in trains as an alternative to planes and cars on short and medium journeys is increasing, and investing in electrification is one of the clear bets in Europe, for more sustainable mobility. O hydrogen is being touted as a technology that could be an option in electric trains and Alstom has been investing in this area for several years.after the first hydrogen trains were put into commercial use in Lower Saxony, Germany in June of this year.
O Coradia iLint is the first second-generation hydrogen train to enter commercial production. It was presented in 2016 at Innotrans, the largest railway fair in Europe, and in 2018 it started circulating, but it was not until June of this year that it hit the commercial circuits. THE Alstom has already delivered 6 trainsets in Lower Saxony, in Northern Germany, for a line providing for the operation of 14 trains, which will be delivered by the end of the year to replace the circulating equipment that worked in this network. The company has already delivery of another 27 trains to Frankfurt is scheduled for this yearand there is also a project for Lombardy, with 6 trains and an option for eight more.
“This is a technology that has already proven to be reliable,” explains Stefan Schrank, product manager at Alstom, noting that the company’s first series was produced in 2018 and that the Coradia iLint is already part of a second-generation hydrogen development. “There is more demand and people have more confidence,” he explained to journalists during a train ride between Berlin and Hennigsdorf, the company’s main production site in Germany.
View the images of the new train and the journey to the Hennigsdorf factory
The responsible person guarantees that: there is currently no demand for diesel trains and interest in electric and hydrogen vehicles is growing. “Because they don’t need investments in the electrification of the electricity grid, [os comboios a hidrogénio] they are a more economical option,” he stresses, also highlighting the benefits of zero C02 emissions and the ability to adapt to non-electrified or partially electrified lines, which is important in low-density lines.
According to data shared by the company, about 40% of the rail network in Europe is not electrified and replacing regional diesel trains with hydrogen trains could reduce annual C02 emissions by the equivalent of 4,400 tons.
How does the hydrogen train work?
Hydrogen is touted as a green alternative energy generation and the European Commission has just announced a €3 billion investment in this area, giving Alstom even more confidence in its commitment to technology.
Hydrogen trains are electric motor vehicles, but the batteries are powered by hydrogen, so they can run on electrified or non-electrified networks.. Because they do not require overhead wires, they become an alternative for areas where the railway lines have not yet been electrified, without the investment in electrification, which is still of high value, up to 1 million euros per kilometre.
O principle is based on hydrogen fuel cells that produce electrical energy with hydrogen from the tanks which is combined with oxygen from the environment.. The energy is stored in powerful lithium-ion batteries, which power the train’s electric motor. Bee Fuel cells are mainly used to provide traction during the acceleration phase, with additional support from the batteries. These are charged with kinetic energy during the braking phases, with the inverters, and help to meet other energy needs in the wagons, making the train almost self-sufficient.
THE technology is 100% free of C02 emissions and only generates water, steam and condensation, but the benefits extend to flexibly storing energy in batteries and intelligently managing the electricity generated. All in all, it results in a greener and more sustainable technology, but there is also a gain in energy consumption itself.
O Coradia iLint has already broken records and traveled 1,175 km without having to refill the hydrogen tanka milestone recently reached during a journey through Germany to Berlin, where the vehicle will drive this week for demonstration at the largest rail trade fair, InnoTrans 2022, taking place this week at Messe Berlin, from September 20 to 22.
This was the train with which the company showed the benefits of hydrogen to a delegation of 40 journalists from 22 countrieswhat Müslüm Yakisan, Alstom’s president for the region that includes Germany, Austria and Switzerland, says they go beyond the reduction of the carbon footprint, and feel in the reduction of noise and the stability of the train itself..
O SAPO TEK guided part of the journey in the driver’s cabbetween Berlin and Hennigsdorf, Alstom’s main production site in Germany, where the company produces the main train lines it sells in this region.
A train factory with a lot of technology that won’t replace humans with robots
THE Alstom’s Hennigsdorf plant is the company’s largest production and testing site for trains in Germany and has about 2,200 employees, including 800 engineers from various fields who work on the development of new vehicles, locomotives and carriages, adapting the requirements to the needs of the customer and in the test area.
Pierric Gisquet, Project Directorandexplains that there are many challenges in developing new locomotives and carriagesand that everything should work perfectly, even if they are destined for Scandinavian countries where it can be minus 40 degrees at 5 in the morning when the train starts running.
A visit to the various buildings of the Hennigsdorf factory gives you an insight into how the trains go through the various production, assembly and validation processes, and curiously there is little robotics on the factory floor. Pierric Gisquet explained to SAPO TEK that this is due to the great need to adjust the specifications. Unlike the automotive industry, where the mass production of thousands of cars is possible, orders in trains are in small numbers and each vehicle must be customized to customer specifications.so it doesn’t justify deploying more robotics and betting on human intervention.
However, there is still a lot of technology involved in all processes, starting with the train planning using virtual reality and a test system that Alstom calls “Train 0”, which validates the various software components before they are applied to vehicles. “We have adopted the V model and these tests speed up development, increase efficiency and allow us to correct errors,” he explains. Peter Schmidt, Technical Director of the Convoy Control and Systems Laboratory.
By train 0 all elements are tested to the point of exhaustion, from the door opening systems to the lighting, signaling and control of the locomotive, passing through the bathrooms without ever involving an actual model.
you Mechanical tests are also carried out in Hennigsdorf so that trains can pass the strict homologation checks customers and different countries, which have different requirements. Kerstin Wende, Head of Testing and Commissioningshowed how to test the different elements of the convoy, with physical security and resistance to intense rain between validations.
The site also receives equipment tests from other partners, which already account for 15% of all tests performed there, although this opportunity only opened this year. “We get a lot of requests to use our testing labs,” he explained to SAPO TEK, noting that this is Alstom’s largest testing center in Germany, but there are others in France.
Digitization, autonomous driving and augmented reality
During the development process of new trains digitization and automation play an important role, as Jean-François Beaudoin, president of digital and systems integration, also underlined. The possibility of increasing the capacity of the rail networks is one of the objectives, and therefore the intervention extends to the different levels of the train itself, but also to the intelligence of the verification of collected data and safety warnings to the drivers, until the best balance of energy consumption.
The official explained that in some cases efficiency can improve by 20 to 25%, as happened in France in the area of the high-speed link between Paris and Lyon.
Between closed environments, where autonomous driving solutions can be used, and which can be operated with “eyes closed”, and open environments, where it is necessary to collect more information and “open the eyes” of the train, Jean-François Beaudoin admits that much progress can still be made to bring more intelligence into this area.. Improving on-board computers and using artificial intelligence to combine information and create predictive analytics are some of the areas Alstom is working on.
In the projects already on the ground there is also the development of augmented reality models to complement the work of engineers when installing specific components in the trains. Raji Zoura, the project’s engineering manager, showed how Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 augmented reality glasses can speed up some processes and journalists also got the chance to test the models.
Editor’s note: The journalist traveled at the invitation of Alstom. to Innotrans