Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"Next stop, hydrogen? The future of train fuels"

From Railway Technology, July 15:

Climate change and emissions reduction are topics high on the agenda for the rail industry. As companies continue to seek more sustainable fuel options, we explore the potential of hydrogen as a train fuel. 

With 2021 being named the European Year of Rail, all eyes are on the industry when it comes to innovation, sustainability initiatives and new technology.

Rail has been recognised as one of the cleanest, greenest modes of transport. Data from the Office of Rail and Road, published in its report Rail Emissions 2019-2020 report, shows that, for passenger trains, diesel usage increased by 1.5% compared to 2018-2019, but the resulting CO2e emissions for passenger trains have fallen to 35.1g CO2e per passenger km. This is the lowest level recorded since the comparative data series started in 2011-2012.

Although rail has a less harmful impact on the environment than many other modes of transport, the industry is constantly striving towards alternative fuels which could help reduce its environmental impact. Some companies have opted for battery-powered engines as a cleaner alternative, while others are turning to hydrogen to fuel their trains.

Hydrogen fuel can be produced through several methods. The most commonly used methods today are natural gas reforming (a thermal process), and electrolysis of water, which sees electricity running through water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The electricity used can be generated by wind, solar and hydro sources.  

The world’s first hydrogen train

The world’s first passenger train powered by hydrogen fuel cell was produced by Alstom. Named ‘Coradia iLint’, this zero-emission train also emits low noise levels due to the exhaust being only steam and condensed water. 

The train was first showcased back in 2016 at InnoTrans in Berlin and entered commercial service in Germany in 2018. Following on from successful operations in Germany, Alstom received several orders for its hydrogen-powered locomotives from Italy, France and Austria.

In a press release, Jörg Nikutta, Alstom Transport Deutschland managing director for Germany and Austria, commented: “Our two pre-series trains of the Coradia iLint have proven over the past year and a half that fuel cell technology can be used successfully in daily passenger service.”

The electricity required for the running of the on-board systems is supplied via a fuel cell, which generates energy by combining the hydrogen stored on the train’s roof  with oxygen in the air. 

The Coradia iLint can carry up to 150 seated passengers and 150 standing passengers and can reach a range of up to 1,000km at a maximum speed of 140km/h.  

Hydrogen power: a first for the UK....


Also at Railway Technology:
Paris-Nice night train: Aboard Le Train Bleu’s worthy heir

I like night trains:
The Return of the Night Train to Europe