Are hydrogen powered trains the future of rail?

Is a hydrogen powered train the future of rail?
The aim is for Coradia iLint to replace existing diesel multiple units.

A hydrogen powered train that uses left-over gas from industrial processes –  and with a raft of environmentally-friendly features to help reduce its impact on the environment – could hold the key to the sustainable transport of the future.

The world’s first hydrogen powered train, capable of almost noiseless traction with no emissions apart from water as steam, has been developed by Alstom.

The Coradia iLint was first presented in 2016, and as of yet it is the only hydrogen fuel cell passenger train.  Alstom believe it could initiate a new movement in the industry towards hydrogen-powered trains.

The overall design is based on Alstom’s successful Coradia Lint diesel train. High-strength stainless steel is used in the car shells as it is corrosion resistant and longer lasting than other materials. High-strength steel enables the use of thinner gauges and thus helps to reduce weight.

High strength steel’s ability to deliver the required toughness at a lower weight means lower carbon emissions and improved fuel efficiency.

How does the hydrogen powered train work?

  • The train’s fuel cell sits on top of the roof of the vehicle, utilising hydrogen supplied from a mobile hydrogen filling station;
  • It is then pumped into a pressure tank, also situated on the roof, which feeds the fuel cell;
  • The electricity generated by the fuel cell delivers the power for traction with only water emitted as steam; and
  • Additional electricity is stored in lithium ion batteries which are positioned beneath the vehicle.

The iLints fuel cell only works when the vehicle is accelerating, powering down when it brakes, so saving hydrogen. This is managed by the train’s smart energy management system and its flexible energy storage capacity.

The hydrogen is currently sourced from industry as a by-product,but Alstom hopes to produce hydrogen, via electrolysis, from wind power in the future. The train generates little sound, thereby reducing noise pollution for local communities.

Alstom believes that this train would work well for non-electrified routes as the iLint can travel for up to 1,000 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, travelling at speeds of up to 140kph. The aim is for Coradia iLint to replace existing diesel multiple units.

Source: World Steel

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