Hydrogen is of growing interest in the rail sector and the public nature of rail networks provides an ideal platform for governments to support the investment and growth of a hydrogen economy.
To enable effective uptake of the technology across a range of transport sectors, development of multi-modal hydrogen hubs at combined depots, terminals and freight distribution centres on key corridors can be economically developed that service both road and rail freight (or even air and water if at strategic airports/waterways). This enables modal shift to the most effective transport mode for greatest environmental benefit per sector of journey, forming spoke and hub systems where long-distance freight would efficiently be transported by rail to local distribution centres. From these captive fleets for delivery by road powered by hydrogen or using electric batteries become viable. Removing the necessity for long distance haulage by road swings the propulsion model in favour of clean technology for this last part of the journey.
Ricardo has worked on a number of different hydrogen related projects in rail, including Porterbrook’s HydroFLEX, the first hydrogen-powered train to operate on the UK network, whilst a project in the Netherlands for the province of Groningen assessed the viability of hydrogen fuel cell range-extended battery-powered trains in an area which was out of scope for electrification but had short turnarounds and relatively long routes, negating battery-only operation.