Hy­dro­gen fuel-cell and bat­tery bio-mode tech­nolo­gies

Rail (UK) - - News -

In July, the Gov­ern­ment made two con­trast­ing pol­icy announcements. For many, plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 sat un­easily with scrap­ping plans to elec­trify three ma­jor rail lines and in­struct­ing train op­er­a­tors to buy bi- mode trains with part-diesel en­gines.

Go­ing back to diesel on the rail­ways isn’t the only an­swer. In­no­va­tive, more ef­fi­cient elec­tri­fi­ca­tion pro­grammes, and bat­tery and hy­dro­gen fuel- cell bi-modes can save us time, money and emis­sions.

Where prac­ti­cal, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion re­mains the best op­tion to de­liver a low-car­bon, sus­tain­able rail net­work. Elec­tric trains ac­cel­er­ate more quickly (cut­ting jour­ney times), emis­sions are re­duced, and the qui­eter and cleaner rolling stock is cheaper to op­er­ate.

Cost re­mains a chal­lenge. But we agree with Sir Peter Hans­ford’s rec­om­men­da­tions for en­cour­ag­ing third- party in­vest­ment in the rail net­work, and be­lieve elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and power sup­ply up­grades can be de­liv­ered more ef­fi­ciently by the pri­vate sec­tor.

How­ever, it may take some time to put in place the risk and re­ward mech­a­nisms that en­able pri­vate sec­tor elec­tri­fi­ca­tion schemes.

In the mean­time, there are cleaner, greener and more cost­ef­fi­cient al­ter­na­tives to bi-mode diesel that the in­dus­try must fo­cus on.

Siemens is al­ready de­vel­op­ing new tech­nolo­gies which al­low bi- mode trains to be part- pow­ered by bat­ter­ies or hy­dro­gen fuel-cells - re­duc­ing emis­sions, cut­ting jour­ney times and im­prov­ing pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ences.

Bat­tery-pow­ered bi-mode rolling stock is bet­ter suited to shorter dis­tances off-wire.

The bat­tery would pro­vide back-up power for an un­elec­tri­fied sec­tion of a route. So, for ex­am­ple, if a tun­nel proved too dif­fi­cult or ex­pen­sive to elec­trify, the bat­tery could be used to get the train through the tun­nel in­stead.

Hy­dro­gen-pow­ered rolling stock op­er­ates more ef­fec­tively on longer dis­tances. It is much cleaner than diesel - it only emits water vapour as op­posed to NOx or car­bon diox­ide. While there are cur­rently range lim­i­ta­tions re­sult­ing from only be­ing able to store hy­dro­gen gas on trains, tech­nol­ogy is be­ing de­vel­oped which will soon al­low us to store liq­uid hy­dro­gen on trains to re­solve this is­sue.

Bat­ter­ies and hy­dro­gen fuel-cells hold sig­nif­i­cant po­ten­tial for the fu­ture of the dig­i­tal rail­way, and will pro­vide a stepchange in train per­for­mance and pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence.

How­ever, to cre­ate a rail­way that is en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly in the long-term, we still need to see rail­way in­fra­struc­ture elec­tri­fied and power sup­plies in­creased. We should be look­ing to the pri­vate sec­tor to help do this.

Graeme Clark, Head of Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment - Rolling Stock for Rail Sys­tems, Siemens UK

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