The FCH2Rail project, in which a hydrogen-powered bimode demonstrator train is being developed, reached an important milestone in the phase of track tests that it is carrying out by obtaining authorization to run tests on the General Interest Railway Network (RFIG), and having completed the first of the planned routes with the arrival of the unit at the Canfranc station, in the Aragon Pyrenees.
The demonstrator unit was the first hydrogen train to achieve this milestone. This is an outstanding landmark, since the Canfranc line is a particularly demanding line due to its steep and elevated ramps, which pose a great challenge for the new on-board power generation systems. To this end, the demonstrator train, a Renfe Cercanías unit, has circulated on the Zaragoza-Canfranc line both in electric mode, in the electrified area, and in hybrid mode, combining energy from hydrogen cells and batteries, in the non-electrified sections.
A new phase of on-track tests is now being addressed with the aim of testing the new technology in a wide range of power and energy demand conditions, simulating different commercial services. To this end, the train is expected to run on different RFIG lines, mainly on the Aragón, Madrid and Galicia lines. The test scenarios include circulations in different climatic and operating conditions. This will allow a more complete picture of the new on-board technology, for the subsequent evaluation of the competitiveness of the new hybrid bimode propulsion solution with hydrogen fuel cells as a sustainable alternative to the diesel traction that is currently used on many lines.
The FCH2Rail project is being carried out by a consortium of companies made up of CAF, DLR, Toyota, Renfe, Adif, CNH2, IP and Stemmann-Technik. This initiative is based on a current Renfe commuter unit, in which CAF has installed a new solution for the generation of electrical energy from the hybridization of energy from hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, and, at the same time, has integrated it with the traction system already existing in the vehicle.
After the static test phase at the CAF Zaragoza plant and the first hydrogen refueling, the dynamic tests began in mid-2022 on a closed track, which have served to optimize the new system before the current test phase on lines of the RFIG. The start of this new testing phase has meant Adif’s first authorization for the test circulation of a hydrogen train in the RFIG, passing all the risk analysis and safety validation processes inherent to the testing of new technologies. At the same time, Renfe’s engineers and train managers have received the necessary training to drive the CIVIA train converted to a hydrogen bimode system.
The success in the development of this project confirms and reinforces the commitment of the companies that make up the FCH2Rail consortium for the development of environmentally friendly mobility solutions. Likewise, the project is also counting in this testing phase on the invaluable collaboration of companies such as IBERDROLA, regarding the supply of green hydrogen for the train tests, SHIE-ARPA, providing a high-pressure hydrogen refueling solution, and Ercros, a company that produces green hydrogen for mobility applications, which has facilitated the use of its facilities in Sabiñánigo during the testing stage on the section between Sabiñánigo and Canfranc.
It must be remembered that this is a project that started at the beginning of 2021 and whose completion is scheduled for the end of 2024. With a budget of 14 million euros, the initiative has financing of 10 million euros from Clean Hydrogen Partnership, formerly FCH2 JU, an agency of the European Commission dedicated to promoting the development of hydrogen and fuel cells.