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Hydrogen Railway Applications International Lighthouse

Periodic Report Summary - HYRAIL (Hydrogen Railway Applications International Lighthouse)

The project HYRAIL made an assessment of the state of the art of hydrogen and fuel cells technologies available, R&D activities and research projects related to hydrogen propulsion and fuel cells. The project drew possible scenarios of transport systems and energy supply related to railways. Gaps and technological innovations were identified and proposals put forward to solve fragmentation and to remove bottlenecks. Particular attention was paid to identify user's needs and industrial suppliers, especially for SMEs. Costs and benefits from different points of view, as well as, energetic and environmental issues were analysed and discussed, in particular considering sustainable use of energy and resources. Areas of business related to possible use of hydrogen in fuel cells as a railway fuel were investigated. The project's final goal has been to strengthen European rail actor's collaboration, rendering it more effective as well as corresponding to their major interests, showing in conclusion possible applicability areas of hydrogen in railway sector in order to provide a holistic view on the hydrogen and fuel cells propulsion for the rail sector.

The major problems to solve in this technology are:
- H2 storage technology, or reformer solution (with on board CO2 generation, that is carbon sequestration is no more possible);
- reliability of the FC generator that must be largely improved to be use in railway applications;
- electrical storage system must be associated with FC generator; the first research effort might be on these technologies with the concept of hybrid architecture.

Phase I of the developed implementation plan includes:
- area for initial commissioning and restricted train operation without passenger loading;
- operation in passenger service over small route to avoid operating vulnerabilities and difficult safety case;
- operation over a route with more arduous operating features, such as tunnels which may have been rejected in stage 2 to facilitate safety case acceptance.

Phase II will develop new rail vehicles that will prove a more advanced state of the technology, especially regarding fuel cell system cost, durability and component reliability as well as application to higher power ranges.

The project was generally carried out through the structured work packages (WPs), as follows:
WP 0 - Project management. The smooth progress of the activities was controlled by the coordinator and fixed in an agreed Gantt diagram. The circulation of all pieces of information was ensured by the UIC extranet. All information was regularly updated and accessible for all consortium partners as well as the EC and associated partners.
WP 1 - Workshop organisation. The city of Bergamo in Northern Italy was the venue for UIC hosting the first HYRAIL workshop on 27 June 2007. The workshop's intention was to demonstrate and discuss the state of the art of the hydrogen and fuel cell's technology. One outcome of the workshop was the common opinion that the hydrogen and fuel cells propulsion should be further examined for the propulsion of shunting locomotives.
WP 2 - Position paper development. The position paper included general information about needs for alternative propulsion, modes of alternative propulsion, an abstract of the state of the art, first thoughts about RU's and IM's issues and a vague vision about the implementation of the hydrogen and fuel cells propulsion for the European rail sector. It was conceived as the wrap-up off the Bergamo workshop send in combination with all workshop presentations to all major European RU and IM as well as interested stakeholders.
WP 3 - Dissemination and exploitation. The dissemination activity was carried out at European and world wide level through the HYRAIL website, found at: and regular mailings. The final paper comprised the position paper and the state of the art document and gives and overview about the state of the art of hydrogen and fuel cells propulsion, the specific needs from railway undertakings and infrastructure managers and provides the vision for the implementation of fuel cells in the European rail sector.

The HYRAIL projects has come to the conclusion that hydrogen powered fuel cell hybrid trains have the potential to help the railways in EU in achieving these targets. As a matter of fact, whilst it is imperative that the railways reduce costs and improve performance in the short run, it is of vital importance that we explore the possibilities in new technologies that in a longer term perspective can ensure that the railways become increasingly cost-effective while retaining the lead as the most environmentally beneficial means of powered transport. It has been a general assumption that hydrogen technology for railways will develop as a 'spin-off' from a future commercial use of hydrogen on the road. Part of the technology from cars and busses could then be transferred and modified for railway use, and at that time the market price for fuel cells and other components would be reduced as a result of mass production for the growing automotive market. Even if the general development of hydrogen and fuel cell technology will bring lower prices, longer cell lifetimes, better and cheaper solutions for hydrogen storage, production and other benefits, some areas of development are specific for railway use, and the technology needs to be tested, adapted to and demonstrated in railway vehicles to ensure feasible solutions.