East Japan Railway
(JR East) has demonstrated an environmentally friendly fuel cell hybrid train it developed, powered by a storage battery and two 65KW fuel cells.
The New Energy Train (NE Train) can run at a maximum speed of 100 kph and it can travel for 50 to 100km between hydrogen refuelling stops, discharging only water. Unlike conventional trains it does not require a constant supply of electricity from overhead wires as it can store the energy that is produced when it brakes.
The train will begin test runs on actual train tracks from next April, according to JR East.
The Railway Technical Research Institute, the JR group’s Tokyo-based research body, has been developing a fuel battery train, but this is the first to use both fuel cells and storage batteries.
Minoru Ogasawara, head of JR East's centre for railway systems development, said, ‘There still are many issues to overcome, such as the cost and the distance it can travel, but it will improve the (city) view as it requires no overhead wires. We hope to make it a commuting train 10 or 20 years from now.’
JR East estimates the NE Train will consume about 20 per cent less energy than traditional trains. The company has cut overall energy consumption by 13 per cent since 1990, despite rising traffic volumes.
The new trains could be used in remote areas where there are no overhead power lines, replacing older battery-driven trains or those running solely on diesel.