Hydrogen could replace diesel in 15 years says LNVG, as fuel cell train contract signed PDF Print E-mail


9 Nov 2017

GERMANY: ‘Fuel cell technology has a good chance to prevail in Germany in the next 10 to 15 years, with diesel vehicles being more and more forced out of the market’, said Niedersachsen transport authority LNVG when it signed a 30-year contract with Alstom and gas supplier Linde Group for the delivery, maintenance and fuelling of 14 Coradia iLint hydrogen-fuelled multiple-units.

‘The use of hydrogen for rail vehicles is a milestone in the application of fuel cells for emission-free transport’, said Linde board member Bernd Eulitz at the ceremony in Wolfsburg on November 9. ‘For the first time, the coupling of this sector to hydrogen infrastructure will be realised with a significant scope and in an economically viable manner. This development will push the establishment of a hydrogen society and will create new solutions for the storage and transport of energy.’

The iLint multiple-units are to be built at Alstom’s Salzgitter plant, and will be leased by LNVG to its contracted train operator for use on Elbe-Weser services between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude. The existing two-car prototype unit and a second unit are scheduled to enter service in spring 2018, with the rest of the fleet scheduled to replace diesel multiple-units from December 2021.

The trains will be maintained at an existing depot in Bremervörde where Linde will build a hydrogen fuelling point, with the estimated €10m cost funded by the federal government. The on-site production of hydrogen by electrolysis and wind energy is planned for a later phase of the project.

According to Alstom, the Coradia iLint will be able to operate at speeds up to 140 km/h and cover a distance of up to 1 000 km between refuelling.

The contract ‘represents a real breakthrough in rail transport and a big step change towards a clean mobility system’, said Alstom’s Senior Vice-President, Europe, Gian Luca Erbacci. ‘For the first time worldwide, a hydrogen-fuelled passenger regional train will replace diesel trains, generating zero emissions with the same performance as a regular regional train’

The Land of Niedersachsen is providing €81·3m for the project. ‘From now on there will be a real alternative to diesel trains for non-electrified rail transport’, said Niedersachsen Economy & Transport Minister Olaf Lies at the signing event. ‘Hydrogen and fuel cells are an ideal combination for climate protection as well as for the energy and transport revolution. They allow the storage of energy and emission-free travelling on rail. We fund innovative technologies and make a sustainable contribution to the energy revolution in the transport sector.’

The Federal Ministry of Transport & Digital Infrastructure is contributing €8·4m from the National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technology.

  • The Coradia iLint was described in more detail in the March 2017 issue of Railway Gazette Internationalmagazine, which subscribers can access in the digital archive.
Royal Caribbean to Test Fuel Cell on High-End Newbuild PDF Print E-mail

File image courtesy Ballard Power Systemscell

By MarEx 2017-11-08 15:38:57

Canadian technology firm Ballard Power Systems has delivered the world's first fuel cell power supply for a luxury cruise ship. ABB will integrate the fuel cell module into the electrical system on one of Royal Caribbean's new Icon-class vessels, along with all control, converter and transformer equipment. The 100-kilowatt (130 horsepower-equivalent) device will be used to take up the vessel's hotel load during port calls, with a longer-term goal of evaluating its suitability for main propulsion applications. 

The fuel cell has already been delivered, and before it is installed on board a newbuild, RCL is using it as a demonstration model at company events. It is currently providing onsite power for "Sea Beyond," an RCL event in Brooklyn's Navy Yard this Wednesday and Thursday.

“Our goal is to take the smoke out of the smokestacks,” said Harri Kulovaara, EVP of maritime and newbuilding for Royal Caribbean Cruises. “We are dedicated to innovation, continuous improvement, and environmental responsibility, and using fuel cell technology gives us the opportunity to deliver against all three of these pillars.”

Competitor Viking Cruises has announced plans to build a 900-passenger vessel with hydrogen fuel cells for main propulsion. Several bunkering vessels to carry the fuel to the cruise ship are also part of Viking's project, and the line is working with Statoil to find a local fuel supply solution based at a Norwegian refinery. It will be the first cruise ship to operate on liquid hydrogen, but not the first vessel to run on the fuel: several hydrogen-powered inland tour boats have been in use in Europe for some time. 

Fuel cells generate energy by exploiting an electrochemical reaction at the interface between the anode or cathode and the electrolyte membrane. They involve no combustion, converting hydrogen fuel directly to electricity and heat. Their theoretical efficiency in turning chemical energy into usable power is in the range of 80 percent, potentially exceeding the 50 percent real-world efficiency of advanced large-bore diesels.

95 percent of the world’s hydrogen supply is currently produced by steam reformation of natural gas, oil or coal, though renewable alternatives are possible. A recent study by Sandia National Laboratories found that a hydrogen-fueled vessel’s operating cost and net CO2 emissions would vary depending upon the manner in which the hydrogen is produced. 

Ballard's fuel cells have previously been deployed in hydrogen-powered buses, which have logged over six million miles in service, with exceptional uptime. They are available in power levels ranging from 30kW (for small buses) to 200kW (for light rail and marine applications).

Eco-friendly hydrogen trains to replace ageing dirty diesels PDF Print E-mail

Alstom, which has developed a hydrogen-powered train, above, is in talks with a number of British train operators


Hydrogen-powered trains could be introduced to the rail network under government plans to phase out dirty diesel engines.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said new incentives would encourage companies into using greener trains and indicated that franchises handed to train operators to run passenger services would be rewritten to force them to meet “environmental targets”.

Paul Maynard, the rail minister, said that companies had to consider the use of cleaner energy, including hydrogen and battery-powered trains, as an alternative to diesel.

Japan is betting future cars will use hydrogen fuel cells PDF Print E-mail

Honda and Toyota think the technology’s superior energy density will triumph over batteries

Japan wants the Tokyo Olympics of 2020 to run on hydrogen. Planners envisage fleets of hydrogen-fuelled cars whisking athletes from the village to the venues. They are even pondering the practicalities of a hydrogen-burning Olympic flame to promote one of Japan Inc’s boldest gambles: that hydrogen, not batteries, will become the automotive power source of the future.



Toyota and Honda both have fuel-cell vehicles on the road, betting that despite the greater complexity and cost of the hydrogen technology, its superior energy density compared with batteries will ultimately give it a decisive advantage in range.


Efforts to boost sales of hydrogen cars have hit an unexpected obstacle, however: stringent Japanese regulations that make it cripplingly expensive to build a hydrogen filling station. Fuel-cell cars are no good without somewhere to fill them up, so Japan is engaged in a drastic rewrite of the rules.


“There’s an issue because Japan’s severe regulations push up the construction cost and running cost of a hydrogen station,” says Taiyo Kawai, project general manager at Toyota’s R&D and engineering management division, who has spent a decade working on hydrogen cars. A fuelling station in Japan may cost two or three times the price in Europe.


“Hydrogen was originally used in industry and there isn’t much experience of consumer use,” says Mr Kawai. Japan’s regulations for the gas are designed with a chemical plant in mind. Transplanted into a city centre fuelling station, that produces painfully high costs: as much as ¥500m ($4.5m) for construction and ¥50m a year for operation.


For example, hydrogen cars need a prescribed space around them during fuelling, and parts must use particular grades of steel. Supervisors must have experience of handling hydrogen and other high-pressure gases. Records must be kept of who handles and purchases the fuel. It is a long way from a self-service gasoline stand.


The issue with regulation highlights one of the biggest challenges for hydrogen versus batteries. Whereas the latter can use existing electricity wires, hydrogen needs its own infrastructure. No one wants a fuel-cell car without a fuelling infrastructure, and no one wants to pay for the infrastructure until there are cars to use it.

An enormous expanse of concrete surrounds your new Toyota Mirai or Honda Clarity. All equipment is machined to the highest grades. A smartly clad attendant will rush out of the office to top up your tank with the ultra-light gas.


All the rules add to what hydrogen proponents regard as a damaging perception that the fuel is dangerous, imprinted on the public mind by the Hindenburg airship disaster of 1937, where a hydrogen-fuelled zeppelin crashed and burnt with the loss of 36 lives. Hydrogen is highly flammable but, unlike gasoline, the ultralight gas quickly disperses rather than pooling and burning.


The hydrogen tanks of a Mirai © Bloomberg Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made rewriting the rules a national priority. “To meet our goal of 40,000 fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2020 we need a plan to accelerate the rollout of hydrogen fuelling stations,” he said in April. “In order to rationalise the regulation on hydrogen stations, please look at this in general, bearing in mind the rules overseas and the comparison with domestic gas stands.”


A pan-government plan for deregulation, published in June, includes dozens of items designed to roll back rules on hydrogen filling stations. Many are meant to take effect next year or in 2019, although that may be too late for the Olympics. Japan’s goal is to increase the number of refuelling stations from about 80 in 2016 to 160 by 2020 and 900 by 2030. Each refuelling station will need to service about 900 vehicles a year to remain profitable and the target is to reach that level by 2030. Government subsidies are expected to expire by about 2020, so energy companies may need to operate money-losing refuelling stations for about a decade before there is a self-sustaining number of fuel-cell vehicles. Getting there will also require reductions in the cost of a fuel-cell vehicle.


The Toyota Mirai retails for $57,500 in the US. Bringing that price down will require larger-scale manufacturing as well as progress on the fuel cell, which uses expensive materials such as platinum. Hydrogen refuelling stations make the whole experience oddly luxurious The ability to reduce costs is likely to be constrained, however, by the complexity of the technology. A hydrogen vehicle has similarities with a gasoline-electric hybrid, combining a gasoline engine and an electric motor, only with a fuel cell replacing the internal combustion engine.

The trump card is range. Toyota claims a 312-mile driving range for the Mirai and there is scope to add to that by increasing the pressure at which hydrogen is stored in the vehicle’s tanks. “We see fuel-cell vehicles as the ultimate eco-car,” Kiyotaka Ise, Toyota’s head of advanced R&D, told the Financial Times in an interview last year. “Everyone is saying electric vehicles [are the future] but there is still a long way to go. EVs are far easier to make than FCVs . . . Toyota is putting huge effort into fuel-cell vehicles.”

Toyota’s fuel-cell big rigs are ready to haul cargo PDF Print E-mail
Toyota’s fuel-cell big rigs are ready to haul cargo
After completing 4,000 "development" miles at the port of Los Angeles, Toyota's Project Portal hydrogen fuel-cell big rig is ready to start transporting cargo from that port and the one in Long Beach to rail yards and warehouses beginning on October 23.

After completing 4,000 "development" miles at the port of Los Angeles, Toyota's Project Portal hydrogen fuel-cell big rig is ready to start transporting cargo from that port and the one in Long Beach to rail yards and warehouses beginning on October 23.

The class 8 Toyota truck is capable of producing more than 670 horsepower with 1,325 pounds of torque -- more than enough for even the heaviest Amazon delivery. The semi began its testing at the ports back in April, with Toyota partnering with drayage (transporting goods over short distances) provider Southern Counties Express. As the trial progressed, more and more cargo had been added until the two companies decided the truck was ready to become part of the proper fleet of vehicles later this month.

Powering the truck are two fuel stacks from Toyota's fuel-cell Mirai sedan and a 12kWh battery. The automaker says the big rig is capable of transporting 80,000 pounds and has a range of about 200 miles per fill-up. That's more than enough to move cargo around the Los Angeles area. Plus, it can quickly be put back on the road thanks to the fact that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles can be refuelled as quickly as traditional gas-powered car.

While automakers have been touting their long-term electric vehicle plans, many of them have been simultaneously working on fuel-cell vehicles as a way to hedge their bets. A hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle can refuel as quickly as a gasoline vehicle, but like an EV, produces no CO2. It seems like it would be a seamless transition from traditional driving, or at least more so than what's expected from electric vehicles, which need to be plugged in and charged for hours to fulfill their range promises.

At issue is the lack of a robust hydrogen fuel-cell refueling infrastructure. Toyota and other automakers have worked closely with third parties to set up stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the north east. Anywhere else, and you're basically out of luck. But if programs like Toyota's Project Portal prove to be a hit, it might be just the boost the fuel-cell infrastructure needs for mass adoption.

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