An experimental train built by University of Birmingham researchers for the IMechE Railway Challenge is setting an example for how a hydrogen fuel cell-powered locomotive can carry 4 tons for a distance of 2.7 kilometers on 5000 liters of low-pressure hydrogen.
The fuel cell train is not proving anything new here – electric trains already exist since the middle of last century even in the remotest parts of the world, and hydrogen fuel cells have also been used in the spacecraft that carried Neil Armstrong (RIP) too the moon. So, what’s new?
Costing around 5,500 British pounds to build, the locomotive that Stuart Hillmansen’s team worked at is showing the world, reminding it, how a fuel different than diesel can power a mechanism whose principle is over 100 years old, and that the same could happen to any form of transportation. The device extracting the energy carried by hydrogen is a 1.1 kW PEM fuel cell. They also used lead-acid batteries.
Particularly, hydrogen-powered locomotives could successfully replace diesel ones in areas where train electrification is not possible or is not viable financially.
The only issue with hydrogen remains storage. There are also solutions that address this problem, but again, the high costs of the materials prohibit their dissemination on a large scale. The tanks used in this experiment are the metal hydride type, a technology invented a couple of years ago and that is also subject to experimentation (not commercial yet).
Anyway, putting a fuel cell carrying 11 people looks like a great start for a domain that’s always been full of adventure. Let’s hope it will continue evolving. See the video of the working train (and technical details) below: