ROLLING stock manufacturer CAF has announced the start of testing on the Spanish national network of the bi-mode demonstrator train developed by the FCH2Rail consortium at a cost of €14m.

As well as CAF, the FCH2Rail consortium includes: the German Aerospace Research Centre (DLR); Toyota; Spanish national operator Renfe; infrastructure manager Adif; Spain’s National Hydrogen Centre (CNH2); Portuguese infrastructure manager Portugal Infrastructure; and Wabtec subsidiary Stemmann-Technik.

The demonstrator train, a converted Renfe Civia commuter EMU that has been equipped with hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, has been tested on the route from Zaragoza via Huesca to Canfranc high in the Pyrenees mountains.

The demonstrator train (pictured in Canfranc) is a converted Renfe Civia commuter EMU that has been equipped with hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. Photo credit: Renfe

This line is particularly demanding due to its steep gradients, according to CAF, and presents a great challenge for the new traction technology installed on the FCH2Rail demonstrator train.

The train has run in both electric mode, drawing traction current from the overhead catenary, and in hybrid mode on the non-electrified section north of Huesca, combining energy from its hydrogen fuel cells and batteries.

New testing phase

CAF says that a new phase of on-track testing is now underway with the aim of testing the new technology in a wide range of power demand conditions, simulating operation in different services.

This will involve the demonstrator operating elsewhere in the Aragón region, as well as in Galicia and in Madrid. Testing will involve running under different climatic and operating conditions, in order to evaluate the feasibility of deploying bi-mode hybrid propulsion with hydrogen fuel cells as a sustainable alternative to diesel traction.

Authorisation from Adif for the first tests of hydrogen traction on its network was obtained following risk assessment and successfully completing the safety validation process. Renfe drivers and train managers also received training to operate the bi-mode hydrogen train.

During this stage of testing, FCH2Rail has been supported by energy company Iberdrola, which has supplied green hydrogen to fuel the train, as well as Shie-Arpa which provided its high-pressure hydrogen refuelling system.

Ercros, a producer of green hydrogen for transport applications, provided the use of its facilities in Sabiñanigo north of Huesca during testing between Sabiñanigo and Canfranc.

The FCH2Rail project is due for completion by the end of 2024. The project has a budget of €14m, of which €10m is being provided by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, formerly FCH2 JU, a European Commission (EC) agency which promotes the development of hydrogen and fuel cells.