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After gaining valuable experience on zero-emission rail solutions in Norway and collaborating with the USA, SINTEF partnered up with several Czech institutions to investigate the potential for zero-emission trains in Czechia.

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SINTEF had previously investigated the potential for zero-emission trains in Norway and USA, and applying our method to Czechia was interesting as it is a more relevant example for Europe.

With our partners, we identified several local lines in northern and western Bohemia and northern Moravia, and proceeded to calculate how much energy they would require if run with catenary, batteries or hydrogen - and some combinations thereof.

We proceeded then to calculate how much money each alternative would require, combining both investments and operation. In summary, the following are the more interesting results:

  • Catenary is overall much more expensive than any other alternative, often about 4 times than the best zero-emission solution.
    • Note that this is because we studied specifically lines that are not electrified - catenary is always cheapest if there is enough traffic!
  • Hydrogen and Battery are often cheaper than diesel, due to the high costs of diesel fuel - but just as much because of the more expensive maintenance of internal combustion engines.
  • Battery trains are the best solution for short tracks, especially if they can exploit segments of pre-existing catenary, which many lines have.
  • Hydrogen becomes the preferred solution as soon as significant charging infrastructure is required for battery operation, compensating its lower efficiency with far superior autonomy.

In particular, the single most notable factor in deciding whether batteries or hydrogen should be chosen is the requirement of charging infrastructure in isolated areas. These areas are often at the end of a local line (e.g. R21, R22), and the costs for power grid expansion to support a MW-scale charger in a small village are far more significant than the charging station itself.

Eventually, SINTEF's recommendation was:

  • Hydrogen for lines R14 Ústí nad Labem - Pardbice, R21 Prague - Tanvald, R22 Kolín - Rumburk, SP14 Zábřeh - Krnov
  • Battery for lines R25 Pilsen - Most, R26 Prague - České Budějovice, R27 Olomouc - Ostrava, U28 Rumburk - Bad Schandau - Děčín.

Note that the report operated with very conservative assumptions on green hydrogen price, which was calculated to be over 8.5 €/kg, a very high price. This may be significantly reduced by producing hydrogen when energy is cheaper (e.g. at night), providing grid services from the electrolyser, etc.

Key Factors

Project duration

01/01/2021 - 30/04/2024

627,720 €