German rail switches its last diesel express trains to biofuel

July 21, 2022

Germany’s state rail company Deutsche Bahn plans to operate its last diesel-hauled, express services without CO2 emissions using fuel produced in a climate neutral manner.

Deutsche Bahn (DB) currently only runs a few diesel express services since most of the network is electrified, but they still operate in central and southern Germany, and on long-distance trips to the northern German holiday island of Sylt.

At a time of increasingly extreme weather across Europe caused by climate change, more and more travellers have grown conscious of the need to avoid short-haul flights with carbon-free rail travel.

“By 2025, we will have converted the last remaining 2% of diesel-powered long-distance routes to biofuel, thereby setting another example for climate protection,” said Stefanie Berk, Head of Marketing at DB.

Biofuels, such as hydro-treated vegetable oil (HVO) are suitable for the older proven locomotives in the fleet with no need for expensive conversion.

Starting this week, the diesel trains which run shuttle services to Sylt from Niebüll on the mainland will also use biofuel only. DB said this will save 7,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. There are plans to electrify the route in the near future.

The fuel used is produced solely from biological residues and waste materials. No extra cultivated biomass is used and there is no competition with food and animal feed production.

Activists had previously protested the use of grains and other valuable food resources to make biofuel rather than to aid parts of the planet where hunger and famine are causing deaths.

Combustion in the engine only releases the amount of CO2 that was previously extracted from the atmosphere during the growth of the plants, according to DB.

DB has also announced plans to use biofuel to power diesels which haul cargo or carry out shunting operations

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