Saudi Arabia is set to pioneer a significant leap in sustainable transportation by embarking on trials for the first hydrogen train in the Middle East. According to a report by Reuters, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Minister for Energy, made this announcement during the UN MENA Climate Week held in Riyadh.
A hydrogen train operates using hydrogen fuel cells, generating electricity to power its propulsion system. This technology is remarkable for its zero emissions during usage, marking a major stride towards environmentally responsible transportation. The process begins with a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, producing energy within the hydrogen fuel cells. The hydrogen gas is stored in high-pressure tanks within the train.
In the fuel cell, hydrogen reacts with airborne oxygen to generate electricity, propelling the train’s electric motors. These motors drive the train’s wheels, allowing it to achieve comparable speeds and performance levels to diesel or electric trains.
The range of a hydrogen train is determined by the volume of its hydrogen tanks, making them suitable for long-distance travel, much like diesel trains. Notably, hydrogen trains emit only water vapor as exhaust, making them a healthier and eco-friendly choice for rail transit.
Hydrogen trains are gaining traction in regions committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting cleaner transportation alternatives. Particularly beneficial in locations where electrifying train tracks through overhead wires or third rails isn’t practical, hydrogen trains offer a sustainable solution.
For the widespread adoption of hydrogen trains, however, further development of the infrastructure for producing, storing, and transporting hydrogen is necessary. Saudi Arabia’s initiative to trial the first hydrogen train in the Middle East represents a significant step towards this goal.
The “Coradia iLint,” the world’s first passenger train powered exclusively by hydrogen, remains operational today. Constructed by the French multinational rail transportation company Alstom and introduced in 2016, this train has a range of approximately 600 miles (around 1,000 kilometers) on a single tank of hydrogen. Designed for regional and commuter rail services, it accommodates a comparable number of passengers to conventional diesel trains. This development signifies a pivotal moment in advancing train-based hydrogen fuel cell technology and heralds a greener future for rail transportation in the Middle East and beyond.