How a zero-emission train could revolutionise UK railways
Source: RTM Oct/Nov 16
Henrik Anderberg, managing director for regional & intercity at Alstom UK & Ireland, gives an update on the company’s first zero-emission self-powered train.
At this year’s InnoTrans in Berlin, the railway industry’s largest trade fair, Alstom presented its very first zero-emission self-powered train, the Coradia iLint.
The train holds exciting possibilities for UK railways. It is based on the service-proven diesel Coradia Lint 54. But this new train is powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which produce electrical power for the traction.
Hydrogen offers a real alternative to diesel power. While the performance of the train is the same as a diesel version, its only emissions are steam and water. This ensures that the train does not produce carbon emissions or pollution, but additionally, the lack of a diesel engine also means that the train is very quiet, both for passengers and for anyone who lives or works near the railway line.
The use of this technology is still in its early years; Alstom is among the first railway manufacturers in the world to develop a passenger train of this kind.
Developed in only two years, it is in part a solution to the lengthy process of rail electrification. A significant part of European and UK rail networks will remain non-electrified in the medium and long term. On these lines the number of diesel trains in circulation is still high, and hydrogen fuel cells could provide a unique opportunity to bring many of the benefits of electrification to places where a full electrification programme is impractical.
The Coradia iLint means that TOCs can deploy zero-emissions trains without the need for large-scale electrification of rail infrastructure. The fuel cells on each train provide electricity by combining the hydrogen stored in on-board tanks with oxygen from the air.
To make the deployment of the Coradia iLint as simple as possible for operators, Alstom will offer a complete package, consisting of the train and maintenance, as well as hydrogen-refuelling infrastructure.
When we are looking at where these trains might go into use first, Germany – where over 4,000 diesel cars are in operation – is an ideal starting point. It benefits from a large hydrogen pipeline infrastructure thanks to the country’s established chemicals manufacturing industry and there are plans to build over 400 hydrogen refuelling stations for road vehicles by 2023.
In the UK, there is more work to do to build hydrogen supply infrastructure. But there is nothing stopping that being developed. And with progress on that, we think these trains could be a fantastic solution for regional routes, especially where a hydrogen supply may already be available via a port or local industrial centre.
We’re very excited about the possibilities that Coradia iLint can offer to the UK and across Europe more generally. At Alstom, one of our key aims as a business is to reduce our carbon footprint and make our products more environmentally friendly. We are sure that our customers will be equally excited about these hydrogen fuel cell trains and the role that they could have in developing a more environmentally sustainable and efficient UK rail network.
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