Hydrogen powered trains

Fuel-cell powered railroads make sense. They would drastically cut down on the amount of oil used and reduce carbon emissions as well. Plus, they would be easy to refuel, as hydrogen tanks just need to be accessible to the rail lines and not on roads everywhere, as is true with fuel cell cars.

Hydrail has a wealth of information on this promising new use of fuel cells, including reports from their various conferences.


  1. Just choosing rail over other forms of transportation drastically reduces fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions, even when it is diesel-powered! Consider: .02 lbs.CO2/ton-mile for rail compares with .11 for a 40-ton truck, .16 for a 16-ton truck, .24 for a 20-mpg automobile, 1.6 for intercontinental air freight, and a whopping 2.8 for regional air freight (that’s 140 times the emissions of shipping by rail). Ocean frieght actually beats rail, but not by much, at .015.

    I think H2 rail would be great– but ANY rail is better than either trucking or air freight. But I wonder if diesel and electric rail can’t compete favorably with trucking, how will H2 rail?

  2. A comment on hydrail (onboard railway electrification via fuel cells) versus track electrification:

    Track electrification has served society well for about 120 years and where it exists, it will continue to contribute for many years more. But the cost of adding electrification to a rail line is two to four and a half million US dollars per mile of track. Hydrail electrifies the rolling stock without this expense. You don’t have to be a plant extensions engineer to see how this will play out. What needs a lot of thought is how best to manage the daunting transition.

    A comparison is in Stanley Kubrick’s movie classic, “2001” when the haywire computer has trapped astronaut Dave in the pod without his space helmet. He must blow the hatch and survive a few torturous seconds of the vacuum of space to regain the mother ship and resume an odyssey to a better future.

    We are secure in a “pod” of track electrification but can’t stay indefinitely. There is a daunting hydrail “vacuum” until the new technology hits the market. Minimizing the duration of the vacuum is probably the least unpleasant option open at this point.

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