Japan Unveils Its First Hydrogen Powered Train

Japan Unveils Its First Hydrogen Powered Train - Carbon Herald

The very first hydrogen-fueled train is out there and being tested by the largest railway company in Japan. It could be a big step to becoming a carbon-neutral nation by 2050.

The train has been called “Hybari”, which is a combination of the Japanese word for a lark and hybrid. 

This two-car train can travel up to 87 miles (140 kilometers) on a single hydrogen filling and can reach a top speed of 100km/h (~62 mph).

The production cost for the train was 4 billion yen or approximately $35 million. 

Development of the train

Formerly known as East Japan Railway Co., JR-East developed the train, in partnership between Hitachi Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. They are planning to replace the country’s diesel fleet and then potentially look into export markets.

Commercial services are set to begin in 2030. Japan has made hydrogen a critical clean energy source to reach net zero. Toyota is ready with its second-generation model to aim for an exponential rise in the production of hydrogen-fueled Mirai cars, as more commercial vehicles and fuel cell buses are expected to be on the road.

According to Japan’s government, the amount of hydrogen usage can be boosted up to 20 million tons by 2050. Meanwhile, energy companies like Kawasaki heavy industries limited and Iwatani Corp. are focused on building hydrogen supply chains to lower its price.

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In 2018, Europe already became a pioneer in hydrogen trains, when Germany introduced the very first train built by Alstom SA. Today, Deutsche Bahn AG and Siemens AG are building regional trains with special fuelling stations that will be ready to test in 2024.

In turn, Japan Railway East will conduct the first safety test for its train on the Nanbu route, connecting Tokyo, Kawasaki, and Tachikawa stations, and a few other lines from late March. The commercial operation of the two-car Hybari hydrogen train is set to begin in 2030. 

The exterior of the blue test car has a water splash design that portrays the water formed in the chemical reaction. Tests are set to take place at night, once a week, without any passengers.

How the hydrogen train works

The fuel cell system developed by Toyota Motor receives high-pressure hydrogen from the train’s storage tank and generates electrical power  via a chemical reaction with oxygen in the air.

The generated electricity is then sent to Hitachi’s storage batteries to power the motors and set the train in motion. 

The railway hybrid drive system technology developed by Hitachi together with JR-East is also implemented. 

Four units of 5 hydrogen tanks each are incorporated in the train for smooth functioning. Each tank has a total capacity of 1,020 liters at a pressure of 700 bars.

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The fuel cells from Toyota were also used in the European FCH2RAIL project. The project is dedicated to building a prototype by incorporating a battery system and hybrid fuel cells in an electric train by Spanish CAF.

JR-East is aiming to implement the Hybari train technologies in the next generation of train cars to effectively reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

We hope to witness more of such innovations and enjoy environmentally friendly train travels.

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