China rolls out first proprietary hydrogen fuel cell hybrid locomotive
Published: Jun 18, 2021 01:53 AM
A view of hydrogen fuel cell at Hyundai’s exhibition area during the 2nd CIIE Photo: Yang Hui/GT

A view of hydrogen fuel cell at Hyundai’s exhibition area during the 2nd CIIE Photo: Yang Hui/GT

China has rolled out its first hydrogen fuel cell hybrid locomotive with a full set of intellectual property rights, intensifying its race with global competitors in new-energy trains, which could have serious implications in reducing carbon emissions. 

The train rolled off the assembly line in Changzhou, East China on Wednesday, marking a major breakthrough and progress from the research and development phase to the application of hydrogen fuel cell hybrid locomotives, according to Chinese state-owned train maker CRRC on Thursday.

The train will offer a new exemplar for the global rolling stock industry for a low-carbon, clean development approach, the company said. 

The locomotive has an output of 1,400 kilowatts (kW), the highest in the nation. Its hydrogen fuel cell will provide a total of 400kW and a life expectancy of nearly 20,000 hours.

The train is designed to run at a speed of up to 100 kilometers per hour. When fully charged with hydrogen, the fuel cell can power the locomotive for 24 hours. Its maximum traction load on a straight track exceeds 8,000 tons. 

Compared with traditional fuel and electric locomotives, hydrogen-fueled hybrid locomotives are not only safer and more environmentally friendly but also quieter, cheaper and easier to maintain. 

The hybrid model allows the locomotive to tap power from the fuel cell in combination with diesel-electric engines or high-power lithium batteries.

An emission-free locomotive has huge implications for China’s low-carbon drive and its aim to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. For reference, trains running on Chinese railway networks consumed 15.49 million tons of coal equivalent in 2020. 

The new product can be used to replace existing locomotives that are based on combustion engines.

US automaker General Motors Co announced plans this week to supply hydrogen fuel cell systems to a US-based rail supplier and Canadian Pacific announced a plan in March for its hydrogen locomotive program.