Deutsche Bahn will rely on hydrogen in two respects in the future. On the one hand, the prototype of a new hydrogen train called Mireo Plus H was presented. This was jointly developed by Siemens and Deutsche Bahn. In the future, it will replace the thousands of diesel locomotives still on the road on non-electrified sections. At the same time, the state-owned company also sees a good business opportunity in the transport of hydrogen. The background: German industry is urgently dependent on large amounts of green hydrogen, because certain processes, for example in steel and cement production, can only be made climate neutral in this way. However, Germany itself will not be able to produce these quantities. The coveted gas must therefore be imported. Corresponding partnerships with Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Australia have already been concluded. But that also means: the green hydrogen will arrive at the German seaports.
The construction of the transport infrastructure will take a lot of time
From there it has to go to the end customers in the industry. The most efficient way would be to use pipelines. However, setting up such a network costs a lot of time and money. Existing natural gas pipelines, on the other hand, would have to be converted or the hydrogen could only be transported as an admixture with natural gas. An interim solution is needed until a definitive approach is found. It is therefore the intention to liquefy the hydrogen to simplify transport. At the end customer, the gas would then have to be separated from the transport liquid. Theoretically, the hydrogen could be transported to its destination by truck. However, as long as these are still powered by diesel engines, this is not really a climate-neutral solution. This is where the railway with its existing tank wagons comes into play. These can take over climate-neutral transport over longer distances and thus contribute to the hydrogen transition in Germany.
Rail currently transports a lot of coal
An associated concept has already been developed together with energy suppliers. In principle, the approach also makes sense from the perspective of the Bahn Group. Because today the company transports not inconsiderable quantities of coal. However, it is likely that these transports will gradually be phased out in the future. The transport of hydrogen could be an alternative here to compensate for the loss of turnover. However, Deutsche Bahn’s competitors face the idea with some skepticism. Because the company is currently not even able to handle the existing transport volumes. As a result, rail freight collapsed this summer due to road closures, construction sites, and poor management. But there are also huge problems with significant delays in day-to-day business. It seems to many critics not very well thought out to take on a new and not exactly under-complex task here.