In September 2018, the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell passenger trains began operating in the northern part of Germany. Two trains are currently operating with plans to add 14 more trains in the region by the end of 2021.
The trains connect the cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude, which had previously been served by a fleet of diesel trains, in a railway line of approximately 100 km. These hydrogen fuel cell trains can reach a speed of 140 km/h. They offer low-noise and only emit water vapour and condensation, making its emissions non-pollutant.
The trains have a total autonomy of 1000 km which allows them to run for a full day on a single tank of hydrogen. They operate using electricity that has been generated through an electro-chemical process that combines hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen fuel cell trains are viewed as an alternative to diesel trains on secondary railway lines where electric trains are not an economically viable option.
Interest in hydrogen fuel cell trains is sparking interest in other countries. Both France and the United Kingdom have announced plans to launch similar passenger trains by 2022. And, other regions in Germany may also launch hydrogen fuel cell trains.
Interest in using fuel cells for cars
But interest in fuel cell technology is not new. This technology is prevalent in the industrial sector, most notably used by forklifts in indoor spaces where the quality of the air is important. It is viewed as a promising technology in Asia where much investment has been made to develop automobiles running on fuel cell technology. According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global fuel cell market size is projected to reach USD 24.81 billion by 2025.
Japan and Korea are both at the forefront of adopting fuel cell technologies for automobiles and have been the first markets to adopt this technology. Concept cars were showcased in 2008 while the first commercially available fuel cell automobile launched in 2013. According to Automotive World, approximately two million fuel cell vehicles are expected to be on the roads globally by 2030.
The Japanese government has also encouraged the use of hydrogen fuel technology and provided US$378m to invest in infrastructure and consumer purchase incentives. The first hydrogen fuelling station launched in Japan in 2014 and 160 such stations are expected to be in operation by 2020.
Fuel cells are also being developed for use in trucks, buses, boats, motorcycles and bicycles. In the United States, California has shown interest in fuel cell technologies. Recently, the Port of Los Angeles announced plans to use fuel cell electric technology for its freight trucking.
Technical committee (TC) 105
In 2000, the IEC established TC 105 with the remit of developing international standards for fuel cell technologies. Safety standards, in particular for use and storage of fuel cell systems in closed areas, are viewed as important for the assessment regulatory compliance.
TC 105 has developed the IEC 62282 series of standards covers safety, performance and interchangeability of fuel cell power systems. Most recently, it developed IEC 62282-4-102 to provide performance test methods for fuel cell power systems used in certain industrial electric trucks and IEC 62282-5-100 which covers the construction, marking and test requirements for portable fuel cell power systems.