Alstom and Eversholt Rail announced their plans to convert existing Class 321 trains to a Hydrogen Multiple Unit (HMU) codenamed “Breeze”. According to the press release, the new train should be operational as early as 2022. This development follows Alstom’s announcement of the first hydrogen fuel cell train (Coradia iLint) entering service in Germany last September, even though the two trains differ in terms of design architecture.
Breeze will be powered by a combination of a fuel cell and a lithium ion battery. In the fuel cell, an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen results in the production of electricity and water.
Fossil fuels are still used in this process. However, water droplets and steam are the only exhaust of the train, and this lowers the carbon footprint of the vehicle. The battery stores energy produced when the train decelerates. Hydrogen trains can run at 140kmph and provide ranges of some 1000km, similar to those provided by diesel units.
According to Reuters, European Union ministers have agreed on a non-binding initiative to increase the use of hydrogen transport and endorse the application of sustainable hydrogen technology for energy storage, transportation and heating. In the meantime, research continues into electrolysis based on renewable sources of energy.