Railways and trains have been essential parts of our way of life since their invention in the early 1800s. They fuel the world’s growth and sustain many activities related to business, travel, sightseeing, and the transportation of food, raw materials, and other commodities. These railroads also connect various nations and promote the development of agriculture and industry. Now, it’s simply hard to imagine today’s society without them.
With these trains’ remarkable benefits, it’s no surprise that trains have significantly evolved through time. The first locomotive Matthew Murray invented in 1804 was powered by steam. In 1837, the first electric locomotive was invented in Scotland. Nearly eight decades later, the first diesel-mechanical locomotive ran in Sweden in 1913.
Going forward to 1964, the first bullet train was invented in Japan not only to improve the transportation sector but this time also to reduce air pollution and cut diesel use. Thus, sustainably revolutionizing mass transit. In 2002, a new train technology, the Hydrail, was conceived for the same purpose to start the shift towards zero-emission transportation, improve air quality, and decrease the impact of climate change – reasons why many people deem it to be the “answer” for the many woes of today’s generations.
All About The Hydrail
Carbon dioxide emission from the many diesel-powered trains is one of the main culprits to global air pollution and global warming. While electric-powered transit systems have partly answered this, the infrastructure, transmission lines, and overhead wires have been expensive and challenging to install and maintain. As a viable solution, the idea about the hydrail was conceived in the early 2000s, aimed to be a cost-effective and zero-emission alternative form of railway transportation.
Hyrdrail utilizes onboard hydrogen fuel cells, batteries to power the electric traction motors and their auxiliaries. Hydrogen serves as the fuel, which transforms hydrogen into electricity. Electricity is then stored in the batteries and, in turn, becomes the source of energy to keep the motors functioning. What’s remarkable is that the system also features regenerative braking, an energy recovery mechanism that uses the train’s brake to charge the batteries and further improves its efficiency.
Unlike diesel-powered trains, the hydrail only emits water vapor, eliminating the toxic fumes released by the former. No additional cost on infrastructure or overhead wires is also required as hydrail can run on existing tracks. That means that diesel-powered locomotives can be replaced without hefty investments and additional time needed to reconstruct structures and railways.
Moreover, the hydrail operates silently, compared to its diesel and electric counterparts that cause both noise pollution and ground vibration. As such, it adds another viable benefit to many crowded areas or population centers that are already suffering from noise and air pollution.
Many nations have already adopted the hydrail system with all the given environmental, economic, and societal advantages. In 2018, the first commercial passenger hydrogen-power rail system entered into service in Lower Saxony, Germany, and now running in 100 kilometers of line. The emission-free rail transport continues to provide high-level performance powered by its clean and sustainable operation. China, Malaysia, the United States, Taiwan, Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom are the other countries with innovative hydrail systems or are in development today.
Another great thing is that hydrogen power can be applied to almost all types of rail transport systems, ranging from freight rails, passenger rails, light rails, commuter rails, mine rails, trams, and even on the simplest ones, such as those used on museums and parks. Of course, the technology doesn’t only encompass trains. Today, it’s being used or developed for space rockets, automobiles, and various vehicles from buses to scooters, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, and airplanes.
With the transport industry becoming more welcoming with hydrogen fuel technology, the shift from diesel may happen sooner than expected. As such, we may also see these efficient, economical, and environmentally-friendly vehicles roaming the road and railways sooner for a cleaner energy future and a more sustainable world.