Deutsche Bahn reaches HVO volume target two years ahead of schedule

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Deutsche Bahn has revealed that it has reached its volume target for the use of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) biofuel in diesel locomotives two years ahead of schedule, as part of a €1.5bn investment program to phase out diesel by 2027.

The firm announced that it now uses 17 million litres of biofuel HVO to power its diesel locomotives – twice the amount than it had originally calculated it would use by 2023. This means that the group has now reached its self-imposed volume target for 2025 two years earlier than planned. 

According to DB, it has achieved this thanks to the successful conversion of diesel filling stations to HVO. In addition, “positive experiences in operation” have strengthened confidence in HVO fuel, the firm noted.

In 2022, DB approved around 1,000 vehicles for refueling with the climate-friendly biofuel HVO, and its freight transport subsidiary DB Cargo already approved its entire fleet with 800 vehicles for biofuel. In the next five years, the remaining 2,000 diesel vehicles from the existing DB fleet will follow. With the first measures to phase out diesel, DB will save at least 50,000 tons of CO₂ by 2025.

DB CEO Dr Richard Lutz said, “We are doing everything we can to make the railways even greener. In total, we will invest around €1.5 billion in the expansion of new drives and fuels by 2027, and in this way, we are gradually getting closer to climate-neutral rail.” 

For DB, phasing out diesel is an important lever toward climate neutrality in 2040. The group is pursuing a technology-neutral approach. For existing diesel vehicles, DB primarily uses alternative fuels such as HVO biofuel, made from biological residues and waste. On balance, the biofuel emits 90% fewer CO₂ emissions than diesel and no additional cultivation areas that compete with food and feed production are used for production. 

For new vehicles, DB relies on new forms of propulsion, such as hydrogen and battery technology. The effect of these measures complements the classic electrification via overhead lines and electric traction.

In the area of hydrogen, DB is working with Siemens on the H2goesRail project, which includes the development of a mobile hydrogen filling station and the Mireo Plus H hydrogen train. In the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the group has been operating the world’s largest hydrogen fleet since December 2022 and is responsible for maintenance and service at its plant in Frankfurt-Griesheim maintenance of the trains. 

Meanwhile, last year, Alstom’s first battery train was successfully tested in passenger service and experience was gained in operation and maintenance. The development of a new, innovative energy infrastructure is also an important contribution to the phasing out of diesel. When battery trains are used, instead of electrifying every kilometer of track with the new technology, only short sections of track or individual stations need to be electrified. This future technology will be used for the first time in Schleswig-Holstein from the end of 2023 and will serve as a role model nationwide.