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Indian Railways unveils ₹5,250 crore plan for Hydrogen Trains

New Delhi, India (7 February, 2023): In a groundbreaking move towards eco-friendly transportation, Indian Railways is set to introduce 35 hydrogen-powered trains as part of the "Hydrogen for Heritage" initiative. This ambitious project, estimated at a cost of Rs 5,250 crore, aims to revolutionize the railway network by integrating hydrogen fuel technology into its operations.

A Green Revolution on the Tracks

Under the "Hydrogen for Heritage" scheme, Indian Railways will deploy 35 hydrogen-powered trains on various heritage and hill routes within the extensive IR network. Each train comes with an estimated cost of Rs 80 crores, and an additional Rs 70 crores will be invested in creating the necessary ground infrastructure.

Pioneering Retrofitting

In a significant development, Indian Railways has awarded a pilot project to Medha Servo Drives Private Limited. The project involves retrofitting hydrogen fuel cells onto existing Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) rakes, coupled with the establishment of the required ground infrastructure. The investment for this pioneering endeavor amounts to Rs 111.83 crores.

Testing the Waters

The first prototype, featuring a hydrogen fuel cell retrofitted onto a DEMU rake, is slated to undergo field trials on the Jind-Sonipat section of the Northern Railway in 2023-2024. These trials mark a crucial step in the implementation of this eco-friendly technology.

The Cost Conundrum

While the running cost of hydrogen fuel-based trains in the Indian Railways landscape is yet to be established, it is anticipated that initial expenses will be higher. However, these costs are expected to decrease as more trains adopt this innovative technology. Hydrogen, as a clean energy source, aligns with the railways' commitment to green transportation and zero carbon emissions.

Saving Costs and the Environment

The retrofitting of diesel-powered DEMUs with hydrogen fuel cells promises significant financial and environmental benefits. The conversion is projected to save approximately Rs 2.3 crore annually by transitioning from diesel to hydrogen. Moreover, it will reduce the carbon footprint, with a decrease of 11.12 kilotons of NO2 emissions per year and 0.72 kilotons of particulate matter emissions per year.

The Roadmap to Green Railways

The conversion project will start with the retrofitting of DEMUs in the 89 km Sonipat-Jind section. Subsequently, two hybrid narrow-gauge locomotives will also undergo retrofitting to integrate hydrogen fuel cell power systems. Key components like diesel engines, alternators, radiators, auxiliary generators, fuel tanks, water piping, batteries, and inverters will be removed from DEMUs, making way for the green technology.

Hydrogen: The Clean Fuel

Utilizing hydrogen-fuel cells in railways represents a significant stride towards reducing pollution from train operations. Hydrogen is renowned as one of the cleanest transport fuels available. It produces no tailpipe emissions when used in vehicles, making it an environmentally friendly choice.

A Sustainable Future

The introduction of hydrogen-powered trains by Indian Railways is a commendable initiative that not only enhances the efficiency of the railway network but also contributes to the global goal of reducing carbon emissions. By embracing hydrogen as a clean energy source, the railways are leading the way toward a more sustainable and eco-conscious future.

Innovators in the rail industry have already made significant strides in hydrogen-powered trains. Alstom introduced the Coradia iLint™, the world's first hydrogen passenger train powered by fuel cell technology, which commenced commercial service in Germany in 2018. This zero-emission train emits only steam and condensed water and operates quietly. It combines hydrogen fuel with battery energy storage for enhanced performance.

The UK unveiled its first hydrogen-powered train, the HydroFLEX, in 2019. Based on a Class 319 train, it features hydrogen fuel tanks, a fuel cell, and lithium-ion battery packs. This bi-mode electric hydrogen train generates electricity by converting hydrogen and oxygen, with additional power provided by the battery packs.

In summary, hydrogen-powered trains represent a promising and sustainable future for rail transportation. With ongoing technological advancements and growing interest from railway operators worldwide, hydrail is poised to play a significant role in reducing emissions and revolutionizing the railways. However, addressing infrastructure challenges will be crucial to realizing the full potential of this green revolution on rails.