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This article was published on January 5, 2021


Scottish trainiacs to convert an old locomotive to hydrogen power

The conversion could save a lot of production CO2

Scottish trainiacs to convert an old locomotive to hydrogen power
Matthew Beedham
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Matthew Beedham

Editor, SHIFT by TNW

Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls. Matthew is the editor of SHIFT. He likes electric cars, and other things with wheels, wings, or hulls.

Even though there are lots of renewable powered electric trains in existence, some still believe that hydrogen might be the answer for future locomotive travel.

Fuel cell experts in Scotland are going to give it a try this year, and if all goes to plan, we will see the country test its first hydrogen powered train by November, Intelligent Transport reports.

Scottish Enterprise, Transport Scotland, and the Hydrogen Accelerator from the University of St Andrews are working with hydrogen fuel cell experts Arcola Energy to bring the project to life.

[Read: Meet the 4 scale-ups using data to save the planet]

Perhaps the best bit is that engineers are going to convert an existing ScotRail locomotive, rather than building an entirely new train.

Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said it could have a dramatic impact on the country’s decarbonization

“Our Rail decarbonization Action Plan sets out to make our passenger railways emissions free by 2035, but to maximize our climate change ambitions, there is also a requirement to look at what we do with retired stock. If we can bring those back into use in a carbon-neutral way, there are huge climate gains to be made.”

If successful, it could lead to dramatic reductions in CO2 generated during the production of the new energy vehicle. The conversion comes as a test to see what else the country can do to reach its goal of decarbonizing rail travel by 2035.

Credit: CC
A ScotRail 314, one of the styles of train that will be converted to hydrogen power.

Scotland’s ambitions to convert a train to hydrogen power first surfaced last year.

Engineers now say they will have the train finished within 10 months and that it will form a centerpiece at the UN’s COP26 climate conference to be held in Glasgow in November.

Scotland won’t be the first to put it into practice though. Germany got some of the first custom-built hydrogen trains back in 2018.

What makes Scotland’s experiment so unique, is that it’s taking an existing train, gutting its old hardware and reusing its rolling gear. In a world where we need to emphasize reusing and recycling, it’s certainly setting a good example.


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