Japan’s low carbon trains
On September 16, the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell train rolled into the station in Germany. The Coradia iLint, built by Alstom in Salzgitter, Germany, is equipped with fuel cells which convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, thus eliminating pollutant emissions related to propulsion. From 17 September onwards, two such trains entered commercial service according to a fixed timetable in Lower Saxony.
“The concept of the above fuel cell vehicle is the same as that of Toyota Motor’s world’s first FCV, MIRAI released about three years ago” an executive of Hitachi says. Train companies in Japan also have been developing environmentally friendly trains like MIRAI. In Japan, the worlds first hybrid trains have entered commercial service in 2007 in Koumi Line operated by East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) and are now used in commercial operations for some sections of non-electrified lines. Hybrid system is that the control apparatus drives the motors in the same way as electric trains, using electric power from the generator and the storage battery. The motor is used as a generator during braking, which recharges the storage battery. The railcar is equipped with large-capacity batteries, and it can be run in non-electrified sections. When moving into non-electrified sections, the pantograph is lowered and the railcar runs on power from the batteries. When braking, the batteries are charged with regenerative energy so as to make effective use of electric power. As a measure to further reduce environmental burden on non-electrified sections, JR East has also developed the Storage Battery-driven Train System. This system enables trains to run on non-electrified sections as though they were electric railcars through the use of a high-capacity storage battery installed in the train. This eliminates exhaust gas generated by the diesel engine and reduces both carbon dioxide and noise pollution. On the other hand the BEC819 series, branded "DENCHA" (Dual Energy Charge Train), is a two-car battery electric multiple unit (BEMU) train operated by Kyushu Railway Company (JR Kyushu) on inter-running services over the Fukuhoku Yutaka Line and Chikuhō Main Line in Fukuoka Prefecture in northern Kyushu, Japan, since October 2016. Its design based on the earlier 817 series electric multiple unit (EMU) trains, styling of the trains was overseen by famous industrial designer Eiji Mitooka.
The lithium-ion battery system used has a capacity of 360 kW and operates at 1,598 V. The train unit manufacturer is Hitachi Ltd.
The difference between Coridia iLint and DENCHA is that iLint runs on on-electrified sections only while DENCHA runs both. As 60 % of Japan’s railways are electrified whereas other area’s railway like Germany is rather low. Hitachi’s executive says the key for Alstom’s hydrogen-powered train is how to create clean hydrogen for its fuel. And while its currently not a clean material, the hope is that the company can push towards creating H2 with 100 percent renewables in the future.
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