The Anonymous Widower

VDE Study Finds Battery Trains 35% Cheaper Than Hydrogen

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the International Railway Journal.

This is the introductory paragraph.

A study of the cost-effectiveness of battery electric multiple units (BEMU) and hydrogen electric multiple units (HEMU) as alternatives to diesel found that BEMUs could be up to €59m (35%) less expensive to buy and operate compared with their hydrogen fuel cell equivalents.

It also says that they are more expensive than the diesels they replace over thirty years.

As it is a professional German study, we should take note of what is said.

How Would This Apply To The UK?

There will be differences between the UK and Continental Europe, which will affect costs!

  • Our small loading gauge seems to be making the design of hydrogen-powered trains difficult.
  • Passenger capacity in a UK train, will probably be reduced when compared to the diesel equivalent.
  • Our hydrogen technology is world-class.
  • More affordable batteries would benefit both types of trains.
  • I believe that companies like Vivarail, will come up with very fast and efficient chargers for battery trains using our third-rail technology, which may not be suitable outside the UK.

On balance though, I suspect that the cost difference worldwide, will be similar.


Companies, developers and engineers will fight a keen battle for supremacy.

There will be some suprising winners and some big losers.


July 28, 2020 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , ,


  1. An important factor is their respective ranges. I.e. how far can a battery train go on a full charge compared to how far a hydrogen train can go on full tanks. The hydrogen train may cost a bit more to run but if a battery train has say, a range of 60 miles and a hydrogen train say, 250 miles then which is the better option?

    Comment by MauriceGReed | July 28, 2020 | Reply

    • The range depends on what the train is being used for. Hydrogen appears better for longer trips, with current batteries available. Using a mixture of electrified track and batteries is the winner in that case. Ranges of 30-40 miles batteries are feasible.

      Also, in the big electricity picture, hydrogen makes sense in overnight, and surplus generation. Hydrogen is the buffer.

      Comment by John | July 28, 2020 | Reply

  2. I also think, that in the UK, there’s a lot of scope to put charging facilities in stations based on system’s like Vivarail’s Fast Charging technology.

    I also suspect that these can be built in a factory and then lifted into place from a truck with a crane on it overnight!

    Comment by AnonW | July 28, 2020 | Reply

  3. Hydrogen sounds good; clean at the point of use, high energy density, but it has production efficiency problems. Far too much energy is lost producing and packaging the product to make it viable long term. Politicians will promote it for its point of use low pollution, for both for vehicles and domestic heating, but electricity will win if the wider system impact is considered. See today’s Times re long range haulage.

    Comment by John | July 28, 2020 | Reply

    • Hydrogen is not in efficient when consuming surplus electricity and overnight generation. It balances the system. The trains will not be drawing electricity at peak times.

      Comment by John | July 28, 2020 | Reply

  4. Looking at battery advances, although only in labs at present, battery trains will take over. When a battery pack needs replacing the replacement may send the train three times as far. Or if the range is not needed a pack three times smaller in size and weight.

    Comment by John | July 28, 2020 | Reply

    • There are companies, who ae developing secondaty uses for car batteries, so will these apply to train batteries?

      Comment by AnonW | July 28, 2020 | Reply

      • Used car batteries are used in Grid storage. They have a long life.

        Comment by John | July 28, 2020

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