Cummins-powered hydrogen fuel cell trains heading further down the track in Austria

Cummins-powered hydrogen fuel cell trains heading further down the track in Austria

Hydrogen fuel cells are recognized as a technology necessary for a carbon-neutral future. Cummins fuel cells and hydrogen technologies have already powered applications ranging from grocery trucks to the first PEM electrolyzer in the United States, and now innovation continues in passenger rail in Austria.  

French railway manufacturer Alstom is among the first railway manufacturers in the world to develop hydrogen fuel cell-powered passenger trains. Alstom has already introduced the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell passenger train, called the Coradia iLint, in Germany, and Cummins supplied the fuel cells. In service since September 2018, the two hydrogen fuel cell trains have been successfully used in commercial service in Germany and following this successful test operation, now Alstom’s Coradia iLint train, powered by Cummins’ fuel cells, will run in Austria for the first time in regular passenger rail service for ÖBB, the Austrian Federal Railways.  

passenger rail in Austria

The train uses on-board fuel cells, to convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, emitting only steam and water and reducing operating emissions to zero. Reaching up to 140 kilometers per hour (86 miles per hour), the train was specifically designed for use in non-electrified lines. Transporting passengers across geographically challenging routes, the fuel cell train will run in Austria over a three-month demonstration period. Maintaining high levels of performance, many new innovations have been incorporated into the train, including clean energy conversion, flexible energy storage in batteries and intelligent management of motive power and available energy.  

Austria TrainIn 2015, Hydrogenics—now part of Cummins—was selected as a key partner by Alstom to develop and implement hydrogen fuel cell systems for Alstom’s iLint. With a range of up to 1000 kilometers per each hydrogen tank fueling, the fuel cell train matches the miles per fueling performance of conventional regional trains. The first serial production of 14 iLints will start operating in 2021 in Lower Saxony, and Alstom will supply 27 hydrogen trains until the end 2022 for operations in the Rhine-Main region. In addition, Alstom announced a trial in the Netherlands which will test further hydrogen powered trains in spring 2020.  

With Cummins as a leading power provider and Alstom as a worldwide pioneer for fuel cell mobility in passenger trains, this partnership provides our customers the right solution at the right time. Cummins continues to innovate emission-free transportation and providing the hydrogen fuel cells to power the world’s first fuel cell passenger train is just one of the latest examples of how we are continuing to build our reputation as a leading provider of electrified and hydrogen fuel cell power.  

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

What is a fuel cell?

Fuel cells are a key technology to unlocking our carbon-neutral future

Fuel cells aren’t new. In fact, the first reference to hydrogen fuel cells appears in 1838 in the December issue of The London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science. Almost 200 years later, the world is recognizing fuel cells as a key technology to unlocking a carbon-neutral future.

Here is what they are, how they work and two fuel cell types that Cummins is investing in.

What is a fuel cell in simple terms?

Like batteries, fuel cells are energy converters – they use an electrochemical reaction to take the chemical energy stored in a fuel source and convert it to electricity. Unlike batteries, which contain a fixed supply of energy, fuel cells do not require recharging. As long as fuel is continuously supplied to the fuel cell, electricity, water and heat will be produced.

How does a fuel cell work?

A fuel cell is comprised of two electrodes and an electrolyte membrane. The electrodes are called a cathode and an anode, and they sandwich the electrolyte membrane between them. Within that system, a series of chemical reactions occur to separate the electrons from the fuel molecules to create energy.

The fuel, typically hydrogen, is fed into the anode on one side while oxygen is fed into the cathode on the other. At the anode, the hydrogen fuel molecules are separated into protons and electrons that will travel different paths toward the cathode. The electrons go through the electrical circuit, creating the flow of electricity. The protons travel through the electrolyte to the cathode. Once at the cathode, oxygen molecules react with the electrons and with the protons to create water molecules.

A fuel cell is a clean energy source with the only byproducts being electricity (power), heat and water. A single fuel cell alone only produces a few watts of power; therefore, several fuel cells can be stacked together to create a fuel cell stack. When combined in stacks, the fuel cells’ output can vary greatly, from just a few kilowatts of power to multi-megawatt installations.

What fuels can be used in fuel cells?

Fuel cells offer flexibility in the fuel type that can be used. While hydrogen is the most common fuel source for fuel cells (hence the common name, hydrogen fuel cells), hydrogen-rich fuels such as natural gas and ammonia are also viable fuel sources.

Hydrogen: When produced using renewable electricity – like solar, wind and hydropower – hydrogen is completely decarbonized and produces zero emissions. Hydrogen fuel cells (i.e. fuel cells that are fueled by hydrogen) produce power, heat and water and release no carbon dioxide or other pollutants into the air.

Natural gas: As widespread production of green hydrogen is still in progress, natural gas is currently the most-used fuel to power fuel cells. In this case the fuel cells are not completely emission-free, but they do offer significantly lower emissions than other fuels, like oil and coal.

Ammonia: Ammonia is most used in agriculture as fertilizer. However, in recent years, several companies have been working to develop green ammonia. Green ammonia is made with hydrogen that comes from water electrolysis powered by alternative energy, making it another option for a low-carbon fuel.

What types of fuel cells is Cummins investing in?

There are six types of fuel cells that are under development, each primarily classified by the kind of electrolyte they employ. Each type of fuel cell has its own advantages, limitations and potential applications. Out of the six, Cummins has recognized the potential in two types of fuel cells – proton exchange membrane fuel cells and solid oxide fuel cells - and has invested in the advancement of their technologies and their application.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells: Also referred to as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, this type of fuel cell uses a polymer electrolyte and operates at lower temperatures of around 80 degrees Celsius. PEM fuel cells are more suitable for mobile and back-up power applications due to their high-power density and quick start-stop capabilities.

Solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs): SOFCs use a hard, non-porous ceramic compound as their electrolyte and operate at high temperatures, as high as 1,000 degrees Celsius.  This type of fuel cell is most suitable for stationary applications because it is highly efficient and fuel flexible. In addition, waste heat may be harnessed and reused to increase the overall system efficiency.

Why invest in fuel cells?

Already leaders in PEM electrolyzers that produce green hydrogen through electrolysis, we are working on making green hydrogen more readily available for future use in fuel cells. Cummins was awarded a U.S. Department of Energy grant for the advancement of SOFCs and have seen our fuel cells successfully support the operation of battery electric vehicles.

Fuel cells may predate the beginning of Cummins, but we are wasting no time discovering how to advance their technology to create a zero-emission future.

Stay Updated with New Power News

From long-range possibilities to innovations happening now, Net Zero News delivers monthly highlights for low-carbon energy. Subscribe today to receive the first issue in your inbox.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

Video Case Study: Cummins HyLYZER® PEM electrolyzer in Bécancour, Quebec

The Cummins HyLYZER in Bécancour, Quebec, Canada, is the largest proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer in operation in the world. A new video case study highlights the installation’s ground-breaking green hydrogen production capabilities, making it a beacon for a zero-carbon future.

Watch below: 

Commissioned in January and installed at the Air Liquide hydrogen production facility in Quebec, this 20-MW electrolyzer system features industry-leading technology, including four compact, pressurized HyLYZER electrolyzer skids fitted inside the existing building. The systems are modular and scalable, perfect for large-scale utility applications.

Through a phased ramp up, the Cummins HyLYZER system is now at full operation and can produce up to 8.2 tons of low-carbon hydrogen per day — or nearly 3,000 tons of hydrogen annually. It’s powered by the region’s electric grid, which is largely supplied by renewable hydro-electric power. This means the hydrogen produced at the plant is “green” and almost entirely carbon-free.

Through this green hydrogen production, the facility is preventing approximately 27,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year. This is equivalent to taking 10,000 fossil-fueled cars off the road.

Since its commissioning, the system in Bécancour has increased Air Liquide’s hydrogen production capacity by 50%, allowing them to respond to the growing demand for low-carbon fuel in the North American market for both industrial and mobility purposes.

Stay Updated with New Power News

From long-range possibilities to innovations happening now, Net Zero News delivers monthly highlights for low-carbon energy. Subscribe today to receive the first issue in your inbox.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

A city quarter built on renewable energy opens in Esslingen, Germany

Cummins electrolyzers power climate-neutral urban district

Across the globe are renowned urban quarters – cities within cities that capture the hearts of travelers with their rich history and architecture. New Orleans has the historic French Quarter, Cuba has New Havana and now Esslingen, Germany, has the world’s first largely climate-neutral urban quarter powered by Cummins electrolyzers.

This urban quarter is considered a "lighthouse" project, a small-scale but big-picture project that will serve as a model – or lighthouse – for similar projects in the future. Developed by scientists in Esslingen and Stuttgart and funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and Federal Ministry of Education and Research, this lighthouse project combines hydrogen technology and photovoltaics to create an energy center that fully connects all aspects of infrastructure with everyday urban life.

Named Neue Weststadt (which translates to New West Town), the newly opened quarter spans 100,000 square meters with over 450 apartments, office buildings and commercial space. A city quarter of this caliber has never been attempted before and is a historic milestone for climate-neutral living. It has been three years in the making to transform a former freight yard into the future blueprint for near zero-emission urban centers.

To make New Weststadt and climate neutrality possible, the quarter needed to integrate solar hydrogen technology for use in urban development to achieve an energy supply that should cause zero climate-damaging emissions and reduce energy consumption without reducing the comfort of living.  

Lifting the Cummins HySTAT® 100-10 into the underground energy center
Lifting the Cummins HySTAT® 100-10 into the underground energy center | © Green Hydrogen Esslingen GmbH

Powering the heart of Esslingen

Photovoltaic (PV) power is the root for the quarter’s renewable energy supply. PV systems are comprised of one or more solar panels combined with an inverter and additional electrical and mechanical hardware to harness energy from the sun to generate electricity. These panels are positioned on the roofs of the buildings in New Weststadt and will work in tandem with the heart of the quarter’s energy center – Cummins electrolyzers.

Commissioned in May, this installation of our electrolyzers was unique from the start. The HySTAT® 100-10 is typically used for indoor electrolyzer projects, but for New Weststadt, we installed the two electrolyzer systems in the energy center’s lower basement. This required unique design elements for hydrogen zoning, access to the basement and installing the vent line out of the basement to meet safety standards. Cummins adapted to these challenges and was able to install the electrolyzer systems in the basement prior to the closing of the basement roof.

Cummins electrolyzer stack
Cummins electrolyzer stack | © Maximilian Kamps, Agency Blumberg GmbH

The energy center is located in the middle of New Weststadt and was built as an underground structure to meet urban planning requirements. The two HySTAT® 100-10 electrolyzers have utilities on separate skids (instrument air, reverse osmosis). They are integrated with heat management to recover excess heat from the electrolysis process and with electric management to regulate H2 production from photovoltaic power.

Taking the surplus renewable energy from the PV systems and from the supra-regional generation, the electrolyzers will create green hydrogen through electrolysis. The excess heat generated by the electrolysis process is captured and put back into the power supply, while green H2 is stored for later use according to the quarter’s energy demands.  

Connecting power, heat, cooling and mobility

The quarter's connection of the electricity, heating, cooling and mobility sector are all combined at the local level. The crosslinked infrastructure covers the demand of heating and hot water in the buildings and provides cooling energy in the summer through absorption cooling systems.

The stored energy from the electrolysis process can be quickly and easily converted back into electricity in combined heat and power plants. The hydrogen produced will also be fed into the quarter's natural gas grid to contribute to the decarbonization of the gas sector. There are also future plans to build an H2 filling station and a gas grid feed-in station on site.

The linked energy supply is important for long-term and sustainable urban development. This climate district is projected to produce 85 tons of hydrogen per year. A portion of that hydrogen will be stored to use as power for the quarter, while the rest will be loaded into hydrogen trailers and transported to customers in the industrial or public transport sector in Germany.

Every aspect of this virtually climate-neutral city quarter was designed to work as a holistic system through the energy center and monitored using a digital information network and energy management system (EMS). The EMS is meant to increase self-provision of localized renewable energy, while interacting with the quarter’s power grid in an energy-efficient manner and minimizing CO2 emissions.

A blueprint for the future of climate-neutral living

The first of the apartment buildings was completed two years prior to Neue Weststadt’s official opening, and residents have already begun living in their new, climate-neutral homes.

Local public transport is being redesigned to replace existing diesel buses with electric hybrid buses, a wider range of public and semi-public charging stations for electric vehicles are being installed and preparations are being made for a second expansion to build a H2-filling station.

An aerial view shows the photovoltaics installed on the rooftops of Neue Weststadt buildings | Nw_Luftbild_Innenhof-Bela
An aerial view shows the photovoltaics installed on the rooftops of Neue Weststadt buildings | © Maximilian Kamps, Agency Blumberg GmbH

The Klimaquartier Neue Weststadt project developed into a truly unique urban quarter and is now a beacon and blueprint for future climate-neutral urban quarters. It’s official opening on June 22 was just the beginning, and we are excited to see how a community built on renewable energy will undoubtedly influence the future of climate-neutral living.

Stay Updated with New Power News

From long-range possibilities to innovations happening now, Net Zero News delivers monthly highlights for low-carbon energy. Subscribe today to receive the first issue in your inbox.

Katherine de Guia

Communications Specialist - New Power

Top 5 reasons hydrogen has a place in the future of rail

Photo is courtesy of Alstrom

Cummins Inc. is the only company in the world powering hydrogen trains in commercial operation. In 2016, Cummins partnered with customer Alstom, a French railway equipment manufacturer, to engineer, supply, and integrate the hydrogen fuel cell solution in its Coradia iLint trains. The trains entered commercial service in 2018 and can carry up to 150 seated passengers and 150 standing passengers. They will start operating later this year through 2022 in Lower Saxony, and there is interest from other German federal states and other European countries to use the trains for non-electrified tracks. 

While many alternative propulsion concepts are still in the development and research stage, hydrogen for rail application is already here. Why has hydrogen been ahead of the curve? In honor of 2021 being named the European Year of Rail, here are five great reasons why hydrogen has a place in the future of the railway industry.

  1. Trains powered by hydrogen have zero emissions at the point of use. The power required for the train’s systems is supplied via a fuel cell, which generates energy by combining the hydrogen stored on the train’s roof with oxygen in the air. There are no emissions of carbon dioxide in this process. They are also efficient: fuel cells are up to three times more efficient than internal combustion engines.
  2. Hydrogen trains can be deployed anywhere and retrofitted into existing trains and lines.  The majority of lines across Europe and the U.S., particularly rural lines and lines with little consumer demand, are yet to be converted to carry electric trains. Hydrogen trains represent a cost-effective alternative that doesn’t sacrifice efficiency or emissions. They can simply run on existing rail infrastructure without the high cost of adding electrification. Cummins fuel cell solutions are flexible and scalable in their configuration and can be customized to fit customers’ needs optimally.
  3. Hydrogen fuel cell trains have an exceptionally long range of up to 1000 kilometers at a maximum speed of 140km/h between refueling—ten times farther than battery powered electric trains. And refueling is quick: hydrogen powered trains can run for 18 or more hours after less than 20 minutes of refueling.
  4. Fuel cells are cost effective and low maintenance. The total lifetime cost of ownership is already comparable for trains running on diesel or electrified lines, according to a report by consulting firm Roland Berger. There is a long asset life compared to electrification, and repairs are often as simple as swapping out one plug-in component for another. 
  5. Trains powered by hydrogen are quiet and comfortable. Hydrogen provides a smooth driving experience and emits low noise levels due to the exhaust being only steam and condensed water. This is especially important in urban areas where noise pollution is an issue. 

To support the continued expansion of hydrogen fuel systems, Cummins recently announced the ground-breaking of a new facility in Herten Germany to support the production of fuel cell systems for the hundreds of hydrogen trains to be in service over the next several years in Europe with Alstom. The facility is currently prioritizing the assembly of fuel cell systems, while actively working on expansion plans to support fuel cell stack refurbishment.

Stay Updated with New Power News

From long-range possibilities to innovations happening now, Net Zero News delivers monthly highlights for low-carbon energy. Subscribe today to receive the first issue in your inbox.

Catherine Morgenstern - Cummins Inc.

Catherine Morgenstern

Catherine Morgenstern is a Brand Journalist for Cummins, covering topics such as alternative propulsion, digitalization, manufacturing innovation, autonomy, sustainability, and workplace trends. She has more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, holding leadership positions most recently within the Industrial Capital Goods sector.

Catherine began her career as a marketing writer for a biotechnology company, where she learned to take complicated and highly technical information and make it accessible to everyone. She believes the concept of “storytelling” is more than a trendy buzzword and loves to find ways for her readers to make personal connections to her subjects. Catherine has a passion for technology and innovation and how its intersection can make an impact in all our lives.

Catherine recently moved back to her hometown in the Hudson Valley, New York after a several decades in Los Angeles and Chicago. She is a graduate of UCLA and enjoys gardening and spending time with her husband and three children.

Redirecting to
cummins.com

The information you are looking for is on
cummins.com

We are launching that site for you now.

Thank you.