Sciencescience

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 08:17 AM

Is Hydrogen viable for mass transportation?

Possibly, but all is not milk and honey in Hydrogen-Land. Here is an article unlike we are used to seeing in this forum:

Hydrogen trains in the UK? ‘Ambitious’ doesn’t even cover it

Hydrogen powered transport has been kicking around for some time now, and in the automotive industry, major players are investing in green technology. But hydrogen-powered trains on the British railways? I’ll believe that when I see it!

This week, details surfaced about a project in the UK called Hydroflex. It was showcased at an event in the West Midlands and is born out of a partnership between rail rolling stock company, Porterbrook, and Birmingham University’s Center for Railway Research. The idea is to create zero-emissions hydrogen-powered passenger trains to replace the current line-up of diesel trains that run up and down the country today.
The benefits are obvious. Hydrogen fuel cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, which powers the motor, and water, which is released as vapor. That’s a major improvement on say, a diesel engine which emits carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, all of which are pollutants and major reasons why our planet is dying.

The Hydroflex tester train is aiming to become the first-ever hydrogen-powered train in the UK when it begins testing on the mainline in March 2020. Only two other active services exist in the world, both in Germany. The French train manufacturer behind the trains, Alstom, argues that the rail industry needs to get greener. But is this really the way to go? I’m not so sure.

The problem with hydrogen fuel cells

There’s a bit of an arms race going on in the electric mobility industry right now. Two emerging technologies are being developed, and the question as to whether there is room for both to flourish is increasingly being asked. Battery versus hydrogen fuel cell, these are the two green technologies fighting to power us from A to B. But which is Betamax and which is VHS?

The argument goes back and forth. For now, it seems to me that those using lithium-ion batteries are leading race. Companies like Tesla have reached worldwide fame and become status symbols for the wealthy. In Europe, manufacturers like BMW and Volkswagen are pouring cash into this technology, and see it as the future of their products. However, criticisms about how green battery-powered vehicles remain. Concerns over the resources required to make the batteries, and the disposal of those that are dead, continue to linger.
Hydrogen fuel cells, on the other hand, are being backed by fewer major automotive companies, but money is still pouring in. The Hyundai Motor Group is perhaps one of the strongest proponents of hydrogen power, pumping in around $7 billion in research and development already as well as building new factories. The Achilles heel of hydrogen fuel cells is still safety. Just earlier this month, a hydrogen refueling station in Norway exploded putting two people in hospital.

The problem with the British rail network

If we go back to Alstom, the only company to have gotten hydrogen-powered trains up and running, and this idea that getting people to switch from car to train is a key part of making green train travel a reality. I can tell you now, that is not going to be easy in the UK.

Since the privatization of British Rail in the 1990s, trust in the nation’s rail network has rock-bottomed. The fragmented network is now run, for profit, by different private companies in different regions. It’s the same old story. Fares increase whilst service declines.

A European Railway Performance Index published in 2017 placed Great Britain behind Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Austria, Sweden and France in the performance of its railway systems. Less than 40% of the network was electrified in January 2018 (more than 60% of the network in Poland is, for comparison). In 2015, the UK has around six times fewer km of track dedicated to high-speed travel than Germany, 10 times fewer than France, 15 times fewer than Spain.

I would rather see the money spent on a future-proof high-speed maglev network.
Put simple, Brits do not trust the train network. Christian Wolmar, a train historian, told the Financial Times in 2018: “It’s very hard for people to travel around and not suffer from the cracks in the system. It’s everything, from knowing who to buy a ticket from to the signaling failure that delays the train to the lack of information when your train is canceled.”

Then there is the issue of size. The Victorians in England were well-ahead of other parts of Europe then they built the first rail networks, but they built them small. According to Mike Muldoon of Alstom, getting hydrogen tanks that can last a full day on trains small enough to run on the network is a challenge.

So there are big hurdles to get over if we are going to see hydrogen-powered passenger trains running in the UK in the coming years. I hope it happens, but I remain skeptical. To go from the current situation to delivering a fancy new hydrogen-powered train network seems like a bit of leap to me. You should learn to run before you can walk, as they say…

https://thegadgetstream.com/2019/06/26/hydrogen-trains-in-the-uk-ambitious-doesnt-even-cover-it/

15 replies, 185 views

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Response to oflguy (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 08:48 AM

1. The article is correct that the British public have become more and more dissatisfied

with the rail system since it was privatised. Most problems originated in the number of different lines the government sold. As noted, confusion often exists as to which carrier is running which line. Additionally the quality of service provided by different carriers varies greatly.

I used to take the line going to the NE midlands out of Kings Cross weekly. Initially, it was being run by the government as they had taken it back from the failed carrier. Service was decent. When it was sold to Branson, service — schedule, cancellations, cleanliness — declined noticeably. And the SE line out of Victoria is a complete disaster.

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Response to Cold Warrior (Reply #1)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 08:58 AM

2. I see

Better in the hands of a failed government, eh?

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Response to oflguy (Reply #2)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 09:03 AM

3. YOUR article points that out

And in my experience of taking trains all over Britain for years, when the government ran the particular line I regularly travelled, yes it was significantly better than when Branson took it over. What’s your actual experience on British trains?

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Response to Cold Warrior (Reply #3)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 09:16 AM

5. Surely you are old enough to have learned that all governments are inefficient and incompetant

No matter where they are

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Response to oflguy (Reply #5)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 09:40 AM

6. I AM old enough not to believe in such gross and simplistic generalisations

The TGV operated by the government owned SNCF is one of the best train services in the world. But please share your experiences on British trains.

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Response to Cold Warrior (Reply #6)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 09:56 AM

7. If you think that

Then you are not old enough or mature enough

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Response to oflguy (Reply #7)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 10:11 AM

8. Please share your experiences on British trains

We’re all anxious to hear of your expertise outside of simplistic jingoisms.

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Response to Cold Warrior (Reply #8)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 10:20 AM

9. Don't need to

I have extensive experience with governments, including civil inspection departments, which are horrible. Many jobs I have had with government agencies have rendered a list of horror stories I could share.

More importantly, I understand why they are inefficient and incompetant. They have no competition, which makes their employees careless and lazy.

Until you have witnessed it up close and personal, as I have over and over, its easy to be naïve to the problem.

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Response to oflguy (Reply #9)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 10:25 AM

10. Perhaps your rather limited experience has caused you to make simplistic over generalisations

With no international experience, your opinions aren’t worth much. There are areas in which government control is highly effective. Public transportation is one. The London Tube is an excellent example.

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Response to Cold Warrior (Reply #10)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 10:27 AM

11. You are SO young

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Response to Cold Warrior (Reply #10)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 05:54 PM

13. +100

Many Americans never leave their state, or even their county

------------"The London Tube is an excellent example"--------------------

Just watched "Crossrail- where did it all go wrong" on Channel 5 - excellent program

Hope they can get that turned around.

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Response to Cold Warrior (Reply #10)


Response to oflguy (Reply #2)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 09:08 AM

4. If only the people there would stop being so greedy and give their govt more money............

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Response to oflguy (Original post)

Tue Sep 3, 2019, 05:47 PM

12. "Alstom, the only company to have gotten hydrogen-powered trains up and running"

That article was posted on 6/26 (A bit strange that GadgetStream didn't identify the author, besides posting a link)

Posting videos on this board is pretty much a waste of time but here goes anyway



Also, France is joining the hydrogen train revolution,ordering 15 emissions-free regional trains to replace polluting diesel models. https://techxplore.com/news/2019-08-france-climbs-aboard-hydrogen-revolution.html

Why would France order 15 hydrogen trains if the ones in Germany weren't working well?

----"Since the privatization of British Rail in the 1990s, trust in the nation’s rail network has rock-bottomed."-----

And rail fares have skyrocketed. An airplane ticket from Manchester to London is - many times- cheaper than a train ticket, and the trains are frequently late.

A nation that privatizes everything is a nation of fools. led by filthy greedy scum

After researching the author, David McCourt, for a few seconds, it's clear why he's late to the H2 party

-----"David McCourt is an Irish-American entrepreneur with experience within the telecom and cable television industries. He grew up in Watertown, Massachusetts, and is a graduate of Georgetown University."----


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Response to Aquila (Reply #12)

Wed Sep 4, 2019, 07:42 AM

15. The London to Manchester line is possibly the most expensive long distance line in the UK

mile-for-mile. When he bought it, Branson modernised most of the fleet and he’s made sure that he gets as much as possible out of it.

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