Rolls-Royce releases mtu rail engines for sustainable fuels

Posted on September 22, 2022

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  • mtu Series 1300, 1500 and 1800 engines already released; Series 1600 and 4000 to follow shortly
  • Up to 90% CO2 savings by operating existing engines with Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO/renewable diesel)
  • Locally emission-free operation possible in combination with mtu Hybrid PowerPack
  • Field tests with DB Cargo and RDC Autozug Sylt  

Rolls-Royce is taking a significant step towards even more climate-friendly rail transport with the release of mtu rail engines for use with sustainable fuels. With synthetic diesel fuels of the EN15940 standard, CO2 emissions can be reduced by up to 100 percent compared to fossil diesel. Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO or renewable diesel), which is already commercially available today, reduces CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent. If the fuels are produced with the help of renewable energy and green hydrogen – through what is termed a Power-to-X process – existing rail vehicles can be operated in a completely CO2-neutral manner. The mtu Series 1800 engines which are used in mtu PowerPacks, as well as Series 1300 and 1500 for locomotives and multi-purpose vehicles, are already approved for use with synthetic fuels such as HVO. Series 1600 and versions of Series 4000 engines will follow in the near future. The release of engines for climate-friendly fuels requires a series of tests and trials and Rolls-Royce has found strong partners for this activity. DB Cargo and RDC Autozug Sylt have already tested or are currently testing mtu Series 4000 engines with HVO in their locomotives.  

Jürgen Blassmann, Director Rail Business at Rolls-Royce business unit Power Systems, said: “HVO allows our customers to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with existing vehicles and engines and to make an important contribution to climate protection today. Emissions of soot and nitrogen oxide are also significantly reduced – without having to make any changes to the drive system or infrastructure. No significant changes in performance were observed and availability and service life of our engines remain unchanged, which is highly attractive for our customers. In combination with our mtu Hybrid PowerPack, HVO allows not only low-CO2, but also locally emission-free and almost silent operation. This makes it possible to achieve climate and environmental protection goals with existing vehicles and without the need for complex and expensive changes to infrastructure.”  

Green transformation: DB Cargo relies on mtu engines and HVO

“Phasing out fossil diesel is one of the important pillars of DB’s efforts to become climate-neutral by 2040,” explains Ali Dogru, Head of Assets and Maintenance at DB Cargo. “It is very important for us that the existing engines in our shunting and mainline locomotives can be operated with HVO without restriction. This means that we can already make the last mile of the supply chain green and run freight trains for our customers in a completely CO2-neutral way.” Since mid-August 2021, DB Cargo, in coordination with Rolls-Royce, first conducted engine bench tests and then operational trials, for example with DB Series 294 locomotives with an 8V 4000 R41 mtu engine running on HVO. After more than 1,800 operating hours, the results are promising: “We were able to use HVO without any problems in our vehicles, without compromising performance and reliability,” said Ali Dogru. The evaluation of one of the engines after completion of the field test is scheduled to take place in September 2022, after which Rolls-Royce will promptly release the widely used mtu rail engines of the types 4000 R01 and R03 for synthetic diesel fuels of the EN15940 standard, including HVO. DB Cargo also uses HVO in other locomotives in its fleet.  

With 90% less CO2 to Sylt    

Passengers can now travel to the German island of Sylt by land in an even more climate-friendly way than before. RDC Autozug Sylt and Rolls-Royce have recently started HVO field trials with a Vectron DE diesel-electric locomotive equipped with an mtu engine of type 4000 R04, which meets the strict EU Stage IIIB emission regulations for rail drives. “The use of HVO is another important step towards improving the carbon footprint of our products,” said Anita Hallmann, Head of Corporate Communications at RDC Deutschland Group. “This is a matter close to our hearts and is very positively received in the region. We hope it will have a signal effect on the entire industry – and would like to see more support from politics for this immediately effective climate protection measure.” Following the successful completion of the tests with RDC, Rolls-Royce also intends to generally release the Series 4000 R04 engines for use with HVO and other EN15940 synthetic diesel fuels, as early as 2023. RDC is already using HVO in other services since July 2022.  

HVO use significantly reduces CO2, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions

Waste vegetable and animal fats and used vegetable oils can be used as base materials for HVO, which are converted into hydrocarbons by means of a catalytic reaction with the addition of hydrogen. Through this process, the properties of the fats and vegetable oils are adapted to diesel fuel and can supplement it as an admixture or replace it completely. The benefits of HVO are clean combustion with reductions in particulate emissions of up to 80 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by an average of eight percent, and (depending on the manufacturing process and feedstock) CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent compared to fossil diesel. Because HVO fuel is produced from renewable raw materials, its combustion only generates about as much greenhouse gas as were absorbed by the plants during the growth of the biomass. Thanks to its production from residual and waste materials, there is no competition with food production.  

Target: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2030 with new fuels and mtu technologies

Rolls-Royce announced in 2021, as part of its sustainability programme “Net Zero at Power Systems”, that it would realign its product portfolio so that by 2030, new fuels and mtu technologies can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent compared to 2019.  

About Rolls-Royce Holdings plc

  1. Rolls-Royce pioneers the power that matters to connect, power and protect society. We have pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in our operations by 2030 (excluding product testing) and joined the UN Race to Zero campaign in 2020, affirming our ambition to play a fundamental role in enabling the sectors in which we operate achieve net zero carbon by 2050.
  2. Rolls-Royce Power Systems is headquartered in Friedrichshafen in southern Germany and employs around 9,000 people. The product portfolio includes mtu-brand high-speed engines and propulsion systems for ships, power generation, heavy land, rail and defence vehicles and for the oil and gas industry as well as diesel and gas systems and battery containers for mission critical, standby and continuous power, combined generation of heat and power, and microgrids and is intensively engaged in the development of climate-neutral solutions.
  3. Rolls-Royce has customers in more than 150 countries, comprising more than 400 airlines and leasing customers, 160 armed forces and navies, and more than 5,000 power and nuclear customers.
  4. Annual underlying revenue was £10.95 billion in 2021, underlying operating profit was £414m and we invested £1.18 billion on research and development. We also support a global network of 28 University Technology Centres, which position Rolls-Royce engineers at the forefront of scientific research.
  5. Rolls-Royce Holdings plc is a publicly traded company (LSE:RR., ADR: RYCEY, LEI: 213800EC7997ZBLZJH69).


Rolf Behrens Spokesman Trade Media Mobile Power Solutions
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