Railway networks are fantastic ways to travel around vast portions of a country, or even several at a time. Yet there are a few things that tend to plague them. They can be costly to run, may not always be efficient and are renowned for using a lot of fossil fuels to achieve their goals. Still, they are a great way to get hundreds of people at a time to their destinations. So the biggest question is, how can they be made better?
The current thinking is Hydrails. The term Hydrail refers to any train that runs on hydrogen as fuel as opposed to diesel or other fossil fuels. Each train would output only water, instead of the ozone killing pollutants the diesel trains do today. This would cut emissions immensely, not to mention, make them more sustainable as this type of fuel does not rely on the finite supply of oil we have in the world today.
It should remain green throughout the whole lifecycle
Often these types of projects come up against problems with efficiencies, however, with a Hydrail, the performance and costs are very similar to that of the existing trains we have today. The switch would not necessarily save money, but it would mean a better environment if they were widely used.
Hydrail projects are likely to open up fast and efficient travel for large swathes of countries, that are currently disconnected from the bustle of urban environments. Currently, they must rely on slow, costly and all too often unreliable transport under current railway networks. Hydrails would allow high-speed trains more frequent access to these areas, not to mention open up possibilities for more rural living.
It’s already running in rural Germany
Currently, there is a prototype running in Germany, and passengers are able to make journeys between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde, and Buxtehude. The train itself is the Coradia iLint and was originally developed by Alstom with further lines being planned by them across other countries by the end of 2018. The hydrogen is generated by a wind turbine, ensuring everything stays environmentally friendly.
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Other countries are also looking to roll out Hydrails in the coming future with several major projects due for completion in the coming years. One such project is the Kuching Light Rail Transit System in Malaysia, which is aimed to be made of an entirely hydrogen-powered fleet of trains by 2024.
This is definitely a massive step ahead in the quest for environmentally friendly railways. While there is a very good argument for electric trains, these would only be possible in areas that aren’t rural and would be impossible to run in third world countries as things stand. Therefore, hydrogen provides a more viable solution for these regions.
The other problem electricity can run into is the generation of it in the first place. Electric railways are only more environmentally friendly if the power can be produced by methods that don’t rely on burning fossil fuels or using nuclear sources, something that is not possible everywhere just yet. So while it would be a more efficient power source, it definitely couldn’t be used just anywhere and everywhere, unfortunately.
With several major projects already underway, and the backing of governments it is definitely an exciting time in the world of Hydrails.
YouTube: How does the Coradia iLint hydrogen train work? (Alstom)
Mel is a UK-based journalist that has been writing about tech, science and video games for a few years now. After studying in Vienna, Austria she followed her dreams and moved to London. Said dreams took her through a few different jobs before she settled on what she really wanted to do – write about the exciting world of technology and the delightfully strange things it sometimes produces.