During 2020 this blog has considered some existing or developing solutions for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. Many innovations are being progressed or are in the pipeline. There are many solutions that have been developed and are being utilised to have a positive impact on the environment and improving air quality already.
This month there is a review of three transport projects that are developing clean energy solutions for trains, ferries and cars. Any hydrogen fuel used needs to be the so-called “green hydrogen” that is generated from clean energy sources. If hydrogen is used from fossil fuel based sources, then there will not be the same benefits.
The Hydrogen Train Revolution
In Germany, Siemens and Deutsche Bahn, the national train operator, are testing a hydrogen powered train that has a range of 600 kilometres. The technology aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by making 1,300 diesel units obsolete. A two-car train powered by a new hydrogen drive will commence trials in 2024 for a year. The train will have a top speed of 160 kilometres per hour (99.4 miles per hour). It can be recharged in 15 minutes. The train, the Mireo Plus H, will run in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The new hydrogen drive will save around 330 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year. It will make a significant contribution toward achieving climate carbon reduction targets. Deutsche Bahn plans to eliminate diesel trains from its network by 2050 and hydrogen is one option for railway lines that are not electrified already (or are uneconomic to electrify).
The train will be powered by a battery and fuel cells that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. It is a hybrid model. Siemens will develop a three-car train with a longer range of 1,000 kilometres (621 miles). Whether power is from renewable electricity or hydrogen for railways the principal factor is that the energy comes from renewable sources. Germany is pioneering modern, sustainable rail transport. See this CNN report for further details.
Hydrogen looks to be a promising energy source for railways. France’s Alstom has already tested a hydrogen-powered train in northern Germany from 2018. It has expanded the service to Austria. The Coradia iLint train is the only hydrogen powered train to have operated in passenger service covering over 180,000 kilometre in service in Germany and now Austria. It has undertaken trials in the Netherlands. In the UK there have been trials of a hydrogen powered train from September 2020. There are several hydrogen train trials underway.
The hydrogen “fuelled” vehicles typically use a chemical process using fuel cells. The fuel cells combine hydrogen from onboard storage tanks with oxygen from the atmosphere to create electricity with by-products of water vapour and heat. It is a chemical process that does not involve combustion and there are no carbon or other harmful emissions. A hybrid approach combines the fuel cells and batteries which allows for regenerative energy capture further boosting the mixed energy source. Details can be found on The Engineer web site.
The Ferry Revolution: Bangkok’s Electric Powered Catamarans
Bangkok is the world’s most visited city, welcoming nearly 23 million international visitors last year. Air quality within the city is regularly recorded at unhealthy levels due to a combination of factors, including traffic, construction and factory emissions and the burning of waste and crop residues. Often pollutants, such as exhaust fumes, cannot dissipate from the city due to local weather conditions. In January 2020 there were at least seven days with air pollution being recorded at an unhealthy level in the city.
Thailand’s Government is beginning to clean up its air by the promotion of alternative energy modes of transport. 27 fully-electric catamarans form part of an ambitious strategy that includes a US$3 billion battery factory and range of electric cars. Each of the 24 metre long catamaran can carry 200 passengers and will contain two electric motors manufactured by Danfoss Editron. The motors provide a continuous power output of between 174-192kW, depending on the temperature they are operating at. They offer smaller dimensions, lighter weight and higher efficiencies than current diesel motors and are designed to operate in tough operating environments.
In addition, fast-charging dockside stations are being installed by Energy Absolute as part of a US$33 million investment in the project. These electric charging stations will be capable of charging ferries in around 15 minutes. Ferries will have a range of range of 80-100 kilometres; they will be capable of operating for between two and four hours on each charge. Two ferries are undergoing initial trials with the aim of rolling out the larger fleet over the course of a year. Hotels and real estate developers have also expressed interest in the fully-electric catamarans which could further reduce emissions on Bangkok’s waterways. Further details can be found on the Danfoss website.
The Re-fuelling Revolution
The UK has its first all-electric recharging station. The Gridserve forecourt is in South East England near Braintree has 36 charging points exclusively for electric vehicles. The company has plans for many more of these charging stations. It has a stated aim of making electric vehicle driving an “enjoyable, ultra-convenient and stress-free experience.”
This company has a UK wide £1 billion programme to install further electric charging stations. The aim is to take the concerns of “range anxiety” and ensure that there are good quality facilities available to allow people to re-charge electric vehicles. The service station is being re-imagined for the future with retail, leisure, meeting rooms and even an option to generate electric power from exercise bicycles! Canopies are covered with solar PV so that all roof space is dedicated to generating more clean power.
Innovations such as this will make the charging experience much better for people who have electric cars. The charging centre is a destination with facilities such as shops including a post office which will mean that time taken to charge a vehicle can be used productively undertaking other tasks.
Whilst this is the first of many all electric charging stations, it will be interesting to see if the design for later stations evolves to make for an even better experience.
The climate solutions outlined here offer a cleaner way to transport people around. There needs to be an acceleration of technologies such as these to provide cleaner ways to get around. All solutions will reduce local air quality impacts and provide alternatives to fossil fuel use. Any hydrogen used for powering trains or other transport should be derived from renewable sources as should the sources of power to fuel the catamarans and cars. The service station is using solar PV to provide a clean energy solution.