Interview: CAF’s FCH2RAIL project manager on testing a new demonstrator hydrogen train

3 min read

Fabien Bouyssou, FCH2RAIL project manager at Spanish rail firm CAF, speaks to EHRT about the Fuel Cell Hybrid Power Pack for Rail Applications project as the hydrogen train is put through its paces during dynamic testing in Spain.

Tell us more about FCH2RAIL and how CAF is involved.

FCH2RAIL is a project developed by a consortium of eight European companies and funded by the Clean Hydrogen Partnership. The goal of the project is to boost the development of hydrogen technologies in railways. The project begun in January 2021, and it will take until December 2024.

CAF is the technical leader of the project. CAF has led the design of the Fuel Cell Hybrid PowerPack, the design of its integration into the train, the integration itself and the testing, between other tasks in the project. More information on the project can be found here: https://www.fch2rail.eu/.  

How is CAF testing the new train?

The Fuel Cell Hybrid PowePack has been intensively tested before the integration in the train. First, all the components have been tested separately, next the functionality has been tested in a HIL (Hardware In the Loop), and finally the Fuel Cell Hybrid PowerPack has been tested in a stationary test bench. In parallel with this last stage of testing the powerpack, a second powerpack has been installed in the demonstrator train to be tested, in stationary mode, and in dynamic mode on a track.

CAF started testing the train in our factory in Zaragoza in May 2022, while the dynamic testing was started in July 2022. The testing on the track will take until 2024.

Where is the train being tested?

The train will be running on different lines in Spain and Portugal, being mainly located in the Zaragoza, Madrid, and Galicia areas. This will offer the opportunity to test the train demonstrator over diverse lines, offering very different testing scenarios (line profile, commercial operations, climatic conditions, power and energy demands, etc.) and allowing a complete validation of the powerpack.

What challenges have been encountered during the testing phase? 

Introducing new technology in the train and in our factory has been a challenge. H2 technology leads to control and mitigate safety conditions using new measures compared to what is normally involved in traditional EMUs or DMUs technologies.

What were the key outcomes of the static testing program? 

Static testing in CAF was successfully finished in July, after the integration of the first powerpack. The second powerpack will be installed and tested in stationary mode in the next weeks.

How was the fuel cell hybrid powerpack tested before it was installed on the train? 

All the components were tested separately in suppliers’ facilities. In the case of the OESS, DC/DC converters and DASEM system, these are designed, manufactured, and tested by CAF. The fuel cells are manufactured and tested by Toyota. The functionality of all the components is tested later in a HIL developed by CAF. The Fuel Cell Hybrid PowerPack is tested later in a stationary test bench prepared by CNH2.

The refueling process is also being tested and is part of the evaluation and optimization program.

How successful has testing been and what is the next step for FCH2RAIL? 

The testing program is still ongoing. CAF is very satisfied with the results we have obtained so far.

CAF is now working hard to have the train running on the track again into several weeks, now with two powerpacks which means using a higher FC and battery power.

In general, do you believe hydrogen is the key to decarbonizing the rail sector?  

The CAF Group is intensively working on providing sustainable solutions to decarbonize transport, and developing buses and trains powered from batteries and from hydrogen fuel cells. Both solutions are key to decarbonizing the rail sector. The choice of one or the other depends on the operator requirements but both are definitively technically valid.

InnoTrans 2022

During InnoTrans 2022 in Germany in September, the FCH2RAIL partners unveiled the latest achievements related to the testing of the FCHPP in Puertollano and to the preparation of the demonstrator train in Zaragoza.

The following video shows how the FCHPP has been assembled, commissioned and optimized on the stationary test bench:

The next video shows the integration of the FCHPP into the Civia train’s existing traction system. As a result, this train becomes one of the first bi-mode demonstrator trains with hydrogen fuel cells: