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22.11.16

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.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

W: www.alstom.com

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

 

Comments

Walter Harold Marlin   23/11/2016 at 03:30

Goodyear has developed a spherical maglev tire. It seems very complicated to steer a motor vehicle without a drivetrain. What if this maglev tire were put on a track or rail as a train? Use a jet engine as thrust? Maybe I am over my head and just don't know what I am talking about. Your decide.

Roger   03/12/2016 at 09:26

Jet powered trains were tried in North America in the 1950s.. They were enormous, extremely noisy and an abject failure. You can't use jets for thrust, as the high velocity exhaust would be destructive. They are also very polluting which is the antithesis of what the hydrogen powered train brings to the party. Jets were tried purely because they were a new technology at the time and seen as the "modern" way to power things that moved. The maglev idea is fine if you want to build a new railway from scratch, but you then have the twin problems of interoperability with the existing 'steel wheel and rail' system, and also the gigantic cost of building them. Their infrastructure is also very bulky. Imagine an existing railway station throat with all its points and crossings converted to maglev-equipped concrete troughs that could do the same kind of traffic switching. It would take up double the land space and be astronomically expensive.

Henry Law   09/12/2016 at 22:22

Good development, though what is the overall fuel efficiency? Production, compression and liquefaction of hydrogen consumes energy. Hydrogen fuel cell technology probably makes more sense in rail applications than for cars, buses and trucks. Hydrogen is difficult to store unless kept liquid below the critical temperature. This is probably easier on a train. Alternatives to expensive platinum catalysts would be a big step forward. One possible opportunity at present being ignored is the use of external combustion technology with bio- or other waste as the fuel. Biowaste is also zero emission and external combustion is a simple and inexpensive technology.

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