Blazing new trails with hydrogen: will rail-based logistics soon be powered by this alternative fuel?

Hydrogen is set to make transportation more sustainable. And this climate-friendly technology will not only be harnessed to move people in the mid-term but also goods, including by rail. Against this background, the development of the first hydrogen filling station for trains will be a key step forward towards an emissions-free future.

Even as many highways and inner cities clog with traffic, online and mail-order retail reached record highs in 2019. So how can ever-more e-commerce orders be fulfilled while simultaneously cutting road congestion? One potential solution is to ship parcels via hydrogen-powered trains.

Innovation prize goes to solution for world’s first hydrogen filling station for trains

28-year-old Saskia Schulz is a business development manager at Alstrom, and a pioneer in the field of climate-friendly mobility. She recently presented an innovative solution for the world’s first hydrogen filling station for trains. This will be crucial to the widespread use of hydrail, hydrogen-powered locomotives. Previously, mobile filling stations have had to plug the gap.

For her solution, Saskia Schulz was awarded the Innovation Prize for Mobility Designers 2019*. And it has not only won over the judges: many representatives of leading companies from industry and business have expressed interest. By late 2021, the first hydrogen filling station will go into operation in Bremervörde, Lower Saxony, in Germany. It will mark a major milestone, paving the way for new, more sustainable solutions for freight transport.

Rolling along – by rail and emissions-free

Eco-friendlier rail transport over long distances is important, but it is only half the story. Ultimately, transferring goods from train stations to their intended recipients must also become greener. Further development of existing transportation systems and rethinking how parcels are delivered in cities could mean that fossil-fuel based solutions will soon be sidelined. An interdisciplinary research team at the Research Lab for Urban Transport (ReLUT), at Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, is working on making this vision of a better last mile a reality. They appear to be right on track: the Innovation Prize for Best Idea of 2019 went to Silke Höhl, a member of the university team conducting research into climate-neutral load wheels and emissions-free underground and local overground trains that could be used for goods transport. The goal is to make tomorrow’s parcel logistics better for the planet, and better for cities by reducing emissions.

*German only

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