According to Chinese media, the world's first urban train powered by hydrogen has been produced via a joint venture between the CRRC Changchun Railway Company and Chengdu Rail Transit. While other hydrogen-powered trains exist, this is the first specifically developed for an urban environment.
The train rolled off the assembly line in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in southwest China in late January, 2023, according to the same media reports.
The train could go as fast as 160km/h and use the same core technology as the Fuxing bullet train. The Fuxing is a high-speed bullet train run by China Railway Corporation. It is also called 'Rejuvenation.'
The Fuxing train began operation in 2017 and can reach speeds of up to 350 km/h, making it one of the fastest trains in the world. They are made to run on China's high-speed rail network and have been used on several key routes, such as the Beijing-Shanghai and Beijing-Guangzhou lines. They have better aerodynamics, use less energy, and have more passenger amenities, like Wi-Fi and power outlets.
Other Chinese media sources say the train has built-in 'hydrogen power' technology, a robust and reliable power source with a 600km battery life.
New train critical to China's plans for more sustainable future
Hydrogen is considered a clean energy source because water vapour is the only byproduct when it is burnt as a fuel. It does not produce harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide, associated with burning fossil fuels.
Additionally, hydrogen can be produced from various sources, including renewable resources like wind, solar, and hydropower, further increasing its potential as a clean energy option.
For the hydrogen-powered city train, a hydrogen fuel cell and a supercapacitor were put in place of the old catenary power supply. According to Chinese media, the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen produces energy in a hydrogen fuel cell; the only byproduct of the reaction is water; no byproducts of nitrogen or sulphur are produced.
The reaction process is also quiet and stable, they claim.
Experts have pointed to a study that says a train of hydrogen-powered cars going 160km/h can go back and forth 500km in a single day. This can cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10,000 kg per year.
Also, because the train is no longer limited by how the catenary (a curve formed by a wire, rope, or chain hanging freely from two points) works, urban vehicles can be used for many more things. This is done without the significant investments in infrastructure and maintenance costs that come with electrification transition projects.
China, it is claimed, has a bold goal to encourage the growth of the hydrogen energy sector. According to a plan put out by the National Development and Reform Commission and the National Energy Administration (NEA) in March of this year, the country will have about 50,000 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2025, and it will produce between 100,000 and 200,000 metric tons of hydrogen from renewable energy each year.
By the end of June 2022, according to NEA data, China had about 270 hydrogen refuelling stations, a relatively small network compared to the country's huge network of electric vehicle charging stations.
Also, in June 2022, according to Chinese sources, Chinese truck maker FAW Jiefang sent 300 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles from the province of Jilin in northeastern China to customers in Beijing, Shanghai, Shanxi, and other cities. According to the company's official website, these vehicles have been used in logistics and city development applications.