Research project for climate-neutral shunting operation with hydrogen

How can shunting locomotives be operated in a climate-neutral way? Since December 2022, this question has been addressed by the joint project sH2unter@ports, with six project partners from research and industry. The project partners are working together on the goal of converting shunting locomotives in Bremen and Hamburg port areas to hydrogen. The prerequisites and requirements for the conversion are to be researched, the conditions for refuelling determined and safety and legal issues clarified. At the end of the project there will be a concrete implementation plan. The project is intended to make an important contribution to achieving CO2 neutrality in the ports of Hamburg and Bremen as quickly as possible.

The conversion of shunting operations to hydrogen also offers other energy-intensive sectors in the port a CO2-free perspective, as they can also use the necessary infrastructure, from delivery to refuelling (intermodal approach). In addition, the project has a model character; the results will be transferable to other areas of operation.

While passenger rail transport is already predominantly electrified and largely operated with green electricity, shunting locomotives – especially in the port context – cannot be electrified by overhead lines. Equipping the powerful shunting locomotives with batteries is disadvantageous due to their high energy demand and not yet possible due to the available energy density, life cycle costs and charging cycles.

For this reason, hydrogen technology is interesting for shunting operations. The locos could be fuelled with green, climate-neutral hydrogen. The energy stored in the hydrogen is converted back into electricity with fuel cells, for example, or used by direct combustion. The energy drives the locomotive in a climate-neutral way – without any overhead lines at all. The goal is to find the most energy-efficient solution possible. For this purpose, numerous measurements are taken on a conventional diesel locomotive. The shunting locomotive of the type G1000 from Vossloh will be equipped with extensive measuring sensors for this purpose.

The measurements are accompanied by extensive ecological and economic studies. In this context, the use of assistance and incentive systems will be examined in order to promote energy efficient driving behaviour and sustainable shunting operations.

The research and development project is expected to run until 31 May 2024 and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Digital Affairs and Transport as part of the National Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Innovation Programme. The funding directive is coordinated by NOW GmbH and implemented by Project Management Jülich (PtJ). The project volume totals over 1.2 million euros.

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