HFC Developments Accelerating, Part 3 

Written by Gordon V. Jefferson, President; and Jenalea Smith, Associate, Hydrogen Fuel Cell Train Association
image description

Alstom hydrogen-driven Coradia iLint in Germany.

This is the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Trains Association’s (HFCTA’s) fourth and final article in a series addressing Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) powered trainsets, locomotives and streetcars that are commercially available, in development, or planned around the world.

Reducing harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sustains our earth to be livable for our grandchildren and generations beyond. It is not the purpose of this article to debate whether over the years fossil fuel combustion has caused the earth’s global warming condition. This article accepts the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. Thus, the application of HFC technologies complies with the reduction of harmful GHG.

Progress of zero-emission HFC-powered rail is occurring all over the world. Europe, (Germany/France ) began as leaders. Canada is now catching up to Europe as the innovator of a Class I freight locomotive. California has purchased 29 HFC powered passenger trainsets and established near-term plans to become a major commuter rail HFC-powered train user. The United Kingdom, Spain, China and Estonia are all making their contributions to global warming reduction via usage of zero-emission rail transportation.


GERMANY: National Hydrogen Strategy (inclusive of rail transportation). https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-national-hydrogen-strategy. In Germany, all non-electrified rail routes will be converted to HFC powered trains. 

FRANCE:  The first Hydrogen Trains to circulate in 2025. France’s national policy on hydrogen usage, inclusive of rail transportation. https://www.sncf.com/en/commitments/csr-priorities/sncf-accelerates-hydrogen-train. 12 Regiolis H2 trainsets ordered by 4 French regions. 

CANADA: Hydrogen Strategy for Canada’s Railways. https://www.railwayage.com/news/hydrogen-strategy-for-canadas-railways/ 

SPAIN: The Spanish Hydrogen Strategy, inclusive of rail transportation. https://www.wfw.com/articles/the-spanish-hydrogen-strategy/ 

 UNITED KINGDOM: UK government publishes its Transportation Decarbonization Plan. https://www.globalrailwayreview.com/news/126118/uk-government-decarbonisation-plan/ 

In the U.S., there is no Department of Transportation (DOT)/Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) hydrogen powered trains usage national policy issued to date. The Department of Energy (DOE) is the prime mover in relation to hydrogen energy. The most recent DOT/FRA documents issued:

Alstom’s Coradia iLint, the world’s first HFC powered passenger trainset in revenue service. The Coradia iLint has a passenger capacity of 300, top speed of 140 kph (87 mph), and an 800 km (497 mile) range before refueling is needed. It is operational in (or planned for) Germany, Austria, Poland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Italy. The Alstom “Breeze,” exclusive to the United Kingdom and expected to be operational during 2022, is similar to the Coradia iLint, but differs in architecture. 
In Estonia, OÜ Stargate Hydrogen in 2021 signed a letter of intent with AS Operail to convert diesel-electric locomotives to HFC. After the conversion, the locomotives will operate as switchers. The project has two phases. First, a prototype was to be constructed by the end of 2022. In the second phase, OÜ Stargate Hydrogen and AS Operail will convert an additional 40 locomotives. Each converted locomotive is expected to save 370 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. 
In the U.K., the University of Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), in partnership with railway rolling stock company Porterbrook, has developed the HydroFLEX. The project involved conversion of an existing Class 319 trainset from diesel-electric propulsion to HFC, giving it the ability to run on hydrogen power on non-electrified routes. The HydroFLEX became operational in September 2020. Plans call for many more Class 319 conversions by 2040. 
According to Chinese media, China’s first urban train powered by hydrogen has been produced via a joint venture between the CRRC Changchun Railway Company and Chengdu Rail Transit. The train rolled off the assembly line in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in southwest China in January 2023, according to media reports. 
China’s first intercity hydrogen-powered train , created in collaboration with the Chengdu Railway Group and CRRC Changchun, rolled off the assembly line in China on December 28, 2022.
In China, CRRC (China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.) has deployed an HFC switching locomotive. It has a top speed of 80 kph (50 mph) and a 972-km (600-mile) range. 
Alstom’s Coradia iLint hydrogen-powered train transported more than 10,000 passengers in a demonstration project in Quebec from mid-June to the end of September 2023. Using Alstom’s green hydrogen-powered train on this route helped save approximately 8,400 litres of diesel and averted 22 tons of CO2 emissions during this pilot, according to the company. Alstom and its partners said they “have laid the foundation of a comprehensive, safe and efficient H2 ecosystem for the heavy transportation sector in North America, from production to refueling to operation.”
Siemens Mobility, Germany, produces the Mireo Plus H trainset. Currently testing in Bavaria, it has a top speed of 160 kph (99 mph) and 1,000 km (621 mile) range. Passenger capacity is to be determined. 
Stadler FLIRT H2 Arrow: The State of California purchased 29 HFC powered trains.The FLIRT H2 has a passenger capacity of 108, top speed of 130 kph (79 mph), and a 1,000 km (621 mile) range before refueling is needed. In the U.S., the Stadler FLIRT Arrow is expected to be in revenue service by 2024, on the OmniTrans system in San Bernardino County, Calif. It will be the first of its type in the U.S. The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) awarded the contract to Stadler. 
Talgo, Spain, says its Vittal-One HFC trainset will be ready in 2023. Last year, it began validation testing. The company says it has designed its fuel cell technology “in a modular manner so that it can be installed on all types of trains and allow diesel trains to be switched to hydrogen operation.” 

Other articles in this series:

HFC Developments Accelerating, Part 2
HFC Developments Accelerating
HFCTA Hydrogen Fuel Cell Overview

Tags: , ,