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Clean Transport

Published on September 26th, 2017 | by James Ayre


Why Is Ontario Asking For Design Concepts For Hydrogen-Powered Trains?

September 26th, 2017 by  

Why is the government of Ontario currently soliciting design concepts for a hydrogen-powered train to be used on the GO rail network around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area?

Are authorities there now seriously considering the use of hydrogen-powered trains? Why not just stick with relatively cheap overhead wires?

According to a press release on the subject, because “recent advances in the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power electric trains in other jurisdictions makes it important that Ontario consider this clean electric technology as an alternative to conventional overhead wires.”

You could argue that that’s a bit of a stretch of the facts … so there’s presumably a fair amount of lobbying going on behind the scenes. I really have to wonder, though, as a general sort of question here: Why do so many politicians and authorities seem to have a fascination with hydrogen vehicles?

Is it just that it’s clean burning? That it functions somewhat similarly to petrol/gas or diesel use (rather than being somewhat “alien” as battery-electric vehicles are)? That it’s easier to create a racket from it (regular fuel provisioning, rather than a simple grid connection)?

As some background here, the GO Regional Express Rail (RER) program will see Ontario “deliver faster and more frequent electrified rail service on core segments of the GO rail network and UP Express.” To achieve that aim, why not simply utilize already available technologies?

What’s the point of performing an expensive “Hydrogen Rail (Hydrail) Feasibility Study” when there are good options already available? Perhaps hydrogen fuel cell proponents will lambast me for this, but I just don’t see the point. What am I missing?

Here’s a bit more information from a press release: “The province has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for concept design work to show how a hydrogen fuel cell system could be integrated into a Bi-level Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) train. An EMU train is an electric-powered train consisting of multiple self-propelled carriages linked together. An EMU does not require a separate locomotive, as electric motors are incorporated in each carriage. Examples of EMUs currently in service include the Heathrow Flyer in the UK, the AGV in France and the TTC’s Toronto Rocket subway trains.”



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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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