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Indian Railways To Convert Trains To Run On Hydrogen; How Green Is It?

Bhubaneswar: The Indian Railways on Saturday invited bids to convert its diesel-powered trains to hydrogen-based fuel-cell technology. The first such retrofitting project will be carried out on Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) in 89 km Sonipat-Jind section in north India.

The Railway Ministry has said that retrofitting of diesel-powered DEMU and converting it into hydrogen fuel-powered train set will save ₹2.3 crore and carbon footprint (CO2) of 11.12 kilo tons per annum along with particulate matter of 0.72 kilo tonnes per annum.

The Ministry intends to convert diesel trains if this is found feasible.

The Ministry said that hydrogen can be produced by electrolyzing water using solar energy.

Is Hydrogen Green?

However, many experts do not consider hydrogen to be a completely green fuel as to produce hydrogen from water requires too much energy. German Prof. Maximilian Fichtner, Director of the Helmholtz Institute Ulm for Electrochemical Energy Storage has said that hydrogen has “very poor energy efficiency well-to-wheel”. This is because most of the commercial hydrogen being produced is from natural gas and the process generates CO2. Also, energy is consumed in pressurizing and transporting the gas.

A report on railway-technology.com points out a common criticism that instead of producing hydrogen using electricity, why not use overhead electric lines for the trains directly. This is a more efficient method and the author pointed out that electrification costs may not be justified in rural areas where rail traffic is low.

Germany, UK, France and Poland are the nations which have tried hydrogen trains.

Also Read: CSIR Conducts Trial Of 250 Km Range Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car; Is Hydrogen The Future?