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Siemens and Ballard’s fuel-cell Mireo funded in Germany

Siemens' Mireo train

Siemens and Ballard secure funding for programme to develop a hydrogen fuel-cell platform for its Mireo train platform

It’s shaping up to be a big few weeks for Canadian fuel cell engineer Ballard. With a new supply deal agreed with Van Hool for hydrogen-powered buses last week, the company is also tying up with Siemens to develop powertrain technology for trains.

Working in tandem the two intend to develop a fuel cell drive system for Siemens’ Mireo train platform. According to Siemens this will involve the creation of “a new generation of fuel cells” with a particular focus on long lifecycle and high power density, as well as improved efficiency. Ballard has been tasked with creating a 200 kilowatt fuel cell engine for the job.

In addition, research for the project will be supported by Aachen University, with project funding of roughly 12 million euros (US$15 million) supplied by the German Federal Ministry for Transportation and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) as part of its “National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Innovation Program”.

The program will be coordinated by the National Organization for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NOW GmbH).

The new Mireo platform covers both regional and commuter trains, and can be made to fit multiple configurations. The scalable articulated design uses bogies with inside bearings and an intelligent energy management system which uses up to 25% less energy than trains of similar passenger capacity, Siemens says. It is also much lighter than previous iterations making it a sound choice for experimenting with new powertrains.

The concept provides can be used with various car body lengths, from two to seven-part trainsets with train lengths of between 50m and 140m. Trains can achieve maximum speeds of 140 to 200kph.

The long-term goal of the project will be to build a modular, scalable traction system with fuel cells that can be integrated into the Mireo train platform. That would allow the Mireo to run flexibly across different lines, potentially running as a battery-electric as well as on routes without overhead lines.

Siemens and Ballard are not the first to work on such a concept – Alstom is already trialling hydrogen-fuelled versions of its Coradia model – but it is evidently eager to ensure the competition does not get too far ahead.

“Our cooperation with Ballard marks a decisive step being taken to replace diesel-powered rail vehicles with emission-free vehicles… We want to be able to offer our customers flexible train solutions – that vary depending on regional conditions and technical possibilities – for different types of local rail routes,” commenetd Siemens Mobility Division CEO Sabrina Soussan.

The project aims to deliver the fuel cell technology – ready for service – by 2021, with integration into additional vehicle platforms to follow after that.

 

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