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Investigation of alternative engine concepts in German regional passenger rail transport

In the project "Investigation of alternative engine concepts in German regional passenger rail transport", alternative engine concepts are being investigated for use in different local passenger rail transport (SPNV) route networks with the aid of a tool developed by the RLI.

The RLI has already analyzed three route networks of different task managers. In cooperation with DB Energie GmbH, a recommendation was made for the use and operation of traction units with alternative engine concepts (BEMU, HEMU). In addition to the technical data of the traction units with alternative engines, boundary conditions of the operation (timetable, adjustment of idle times) as well as of the traction current network were taken into account.

Simulative mapping of track and timetable data

In order to investigate the use of traction units with alternative engine concepts in different route networks, a circulation plan of the traction units to be investigated is first created. This contains the exact route sections and timetable times of the traction unit in the course of the day and is the basis for the further analysis.

Performance of a time-resolved running simulation for all investigated traction units

A speed profile for daily operation is generated depending on the schedule and the characteristics of the traction unit. The acceleration behavior, the basic mass of the multiple unit or the power at the wheel may differ for the different traction concepts. A subsequent longitudinal dynamics simulation based on the speed profile, which also takes into account the auxiliary consumers, for example, provides the power and energy flow in the traction unit as well as the state of charge of the energy storage devices (battery, hydrogen tank). Critical operating situations during the course of the day can thus be identified and evaluated. Long idle times at stations or commuter traffic on non-electrified lines can greatly increase the demands on traction units with alternative engine concepts. The running simulation also provides insight into whether the alternative engine concept is suitable for operation with the corresponding round-trip schedule.

Optimizing the development of new infrastructure and suitability of operations

The use of alternative engine concepts in German SPNV may require the development of new charging or refueling infrastructure. In the RLI projects, the positioning of new overhead line infrastructure or overhead line island systems is optimized with respect to several objectives (CO2 emissions or costs). In addition, the design of tank infrastructure for hydrogen-powered multiple units (HEMU) can be optimized with respect to the same objectives. Based on this investigation, the operation of alternative engine concepts in the route network will subsequently be evaluated and recommendations for action will be made.

Project period: 2019 to date

The RLI assumes the following tasks for the investigation of alternative engine concepts in German regional passenger rail transport:

  • Simulative mapping of route and timetable data
  • Construction of a modular traction unit model for BEMU and HEMU.
  • Performance of a time-resolved running simulation (including optimization of the extension of new overhead line island systems) for all investigated traction unit variations
  • Assessment of the operational capability of the different traction unit variations in the investigated route network
Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung

Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung


Alexander Windt

Project manager