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Class 321's to be converted to hydrogen power

Class 321 NSE EMU Hydrogen Alstom



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#1 cravensdmufan

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Posted 13 May 2018 - 19:00

The Sunday Times today has a third of a page report today with a graphic picture of a Class 321 showing hydrogen tanks installed in the roof space, which certainly caught my eye.

 

https://www.thetimes...-age-mdf78f2dk (You need to register with an email address to read online).

 

Going on to read the article by their Transport Correspondent, it reports that 100 *class 321 diesel trains, which date to 1988", are to be converted by Alstom.

 

Alstom's MD says - "What we are responding to is the fact that as of 2040 diesel as fuel for rolling stock is no longer allowed".

 

Expect them in the north of England (where else?!) around 2021.

 

Apart from the not inconsiderable error in stating these units are currently (!) diesels, it is an interesting enough article!

 

Analysis of the article and more here:  https://anonw.com/20...-new-steam-age/

 


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#2 rab

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Posted 13 May 2018 - 20:37

Is there any link between the use of 321's with
a highly explosive gas like hydrogen, and
the fact that these numbers are often followed
by the words, "Ignition, we have blast off".

Edited by rab, 13 May 2018 - 20:38 .

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#3 jjb1970

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Posted 13 May 2018 - 20:42

Hydrogen can be used safely enough, the London buses don't appear to blow up on a regular basis and I survived working in plants with hydrogen cooled electrical generators (yes, hydrogen is used as a coolant medium for very high powered electrical machines).
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#4 Edwin_m

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 07:29

Hydrogen and methane are lighter than air so will dissipate upwards in the event of an escape.  This is generally safer than LPG which "pools" near the ground. 


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#5 PenrithBeacon

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 09:00

https://www.railforu...en-fuel.164392/

#6 Zomboid

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 09:01

Bionic duckweed?
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#7 locoholic

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 11:18

I wonder if a train with hydrogen tanks in the roof would be allowed to run under 25KV overhead wires? If they were named, perhaps "Spirit of Hindenburg" would be an appropriate choice?
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#8 Wild Boar Fell

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 11:41

So will this mean the 'Dusty Bins' will have to be called 'Bindenburgs'?


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#9 The Stationmaster

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 15:24

I think people might be missing the point - not helped by not having seen the article of course.  The article makes great play of diesel trains causing considerable pollution in a couple of places (Birmingham New St for example) and then goes on to say the answer is a plan to convert diesel train to hydrogen fuel cell power with explicit mention of Class 321 diesel trains being converted in order to reduce pollution from diesel engines.  Anyone who bothers to look, or who already knows, will realise that Class 321s are actually electric trains - not diesel.

 

So while they might save something at a power station somewhere (in France possibly, or on a tall column in the Norh Sea - oops, both are officially non-polluting sources of electricity) this particular conversion would do nothing to relieve pollution caused by diesel engines unless the units - if they work - replace DMUs somewhere.  Rather ironic I thought that non-polluting, at the scene of their operation, electric trains are going to be converted to reduce diesel pollution.  There is some logic of course because the 321s have electric traction packages which could presumably be powered by a fuel cell/battery package but overall the point was missed and no diesel trains will be converted as part of this experiment. 


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#10 jjb1970

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 21:38

Unfortunately, and as we've been discussing in an...ahem...other thread today, the media don't always get stories on specialist subjects completely accurately. You can run internal combustion engines on hydrogen but that has emissions issues of its own and if you're going to develop a hydrogen fuel system for a train it is probably better to go for a fuel cell solution as it is efficient and clean and should be lower maintenance. Given the cost of developing a fuel cell power package and hydrogen fuel system I'm really not sure that rebuilding 30 years old trains would be sensible, but if you did go for such a retrofit then I think it'd probably only be sensible (in the sense of being less daft as I think new builds more sensible) to use a train with an existing electrical transmission.
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#11 brack

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 23:19

Whilst I'm in favour of hydrogen fuel cell use, I can't help but thinking that if we have spare electric units we'd be far better served by just putting some wires up and using them as they are. Especially as the lines proposed aren't exactly remote and lengthy rural lines.
However the whole story seems strange - putting 100 in service without any uk trials seems a bit daft.
The whole network needs overhead line electrification, this has been obvious for a century. Hydrogen fuel cells or battery power is ideal for serving industrial sidings or short trip working (what little as we still have).
Fuel cells are ideally suited to road traffic. With the fixed route of rail vehicles there should be no need to carry any fuel, engine or generating equipment, just traction motors and control circuits. Anything else adds weight, complexity, refuelling issues and increased maintenance costs.
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#12 Christopher125

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Posted 14 May 2018 - 23:56

So while they might save something at a power station somewhere (in France possibly, or on a tall column in the Norh Sea - oops, both are officially non-polluting sources of electricity) this particular conversion would do nothing to relieve pollution caused by diesel engines unless the units - if they work - replace DMUs somewhere. 

 

It's safe to assume they'll be replacing DMUs, what else? IIRC the entire 321 fleet will be off-lease in the next few years, including the 100-odd at Greater Anglia.

 

With new fleets producing a glut of conventional EMUs without a home, including many modern units like the 379s/360s/350s/707s, it seems unlikely 321s have much of a future under the wires.


Edited by Christopher125, 15 May 2018 - 01:13 .

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#13 Joseph_Pestell

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 08:26

Agreed that the 321s may not have much of a future below wires given the UKs shockingly poor record on electrification.

 

But it surely does not make much sense to convert an electric train to hydrogen cell when one could simply provide it with rechargeable batteries, as per the 230.



#14 Phatbob

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 11:19

So will this mean the 'Dusty Bins' will have to be called 'Bindenburgs'?

To paraphrase Kenneth Wolestenholme, "it does now". :jester:


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#15 pete_mcfarlane

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 12:36

If I've understood the various snippets of information correctly, is the intention to turn the 321s in to bi-mode units which can operate on their hydrogen fuel cells when away from the wires? This would explain the use of EMUs as the donor vehicles. 

 

These could then be used on DMU operated services which spend most of their time on electrified routes (or which there are plenty).  


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#16 Christopher125

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 12:51

But it surely does not make much sense to convert an electric train to hydrogen cell when one could simply provide it with rechargeable batteries, as per the 230.

 

While Batteries may suit certain routes Hydrogen offers far more range, over 600 miles in this case, though still some way short of a typical DMU - hence the interest in a trial

 

Converting an electric train certainly makes sense - the fuel cell generates electricity so it reduces the cost and complexity of a trial conversion, 321s are in reasonable nick but few if any were likely to see further use, it may allow bi-mode operation and if the trial is a success the same design could be used to convert over a hundred units.

 

Alstom's UK Head of Business Development and Marketing gave a short presentation a few days back which may be of interest:

 


Edited by Christopher125, 15 May 2018 - 12:59 .

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#17 cravensdmufan

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 13:38

While Batteries may suit certain routes Hydrogen offers far more range, over 600 miles in this case, though still some way short of a typical DMU - hence the interest in a trial

 

Converting an electric train certainly makes sense - the fuel cell generates electricity so it reduces the cost and complexity of a trial conversion, 321s are in reasonable nick but few if any were likely to see further use, it may allow bi-mode operation and if the trial is a success the same design could be used to convert over a hundred units.

 

Alstom's UK Head of Business Development and Marketing gave a short presentation a few days back which may be of interest:

 

Very interesting presentation.

 

Thanks for posting.


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#18 melmerby

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 13:49

So when these trains reach the 2040 cut-off for diesel power they will 50+ years old!

Surely by then they would have been re-cycled into tins or knives or whatever and replaced by something else?

 

Doesn't seem very logical to me.

Sounds more like trying to re-use trains that Govt policy has made no use for.

What about the loads of 350s that will become surplus (many not very old) when WMR gets it's new stock?

 

Keith



#19 Mike Storey

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 13:58

If I've understood the various snippets of information correctly, is the intention to turn the 321s in to bi-mode units which can operate on their hydrogen fuel cells when away from the wires? This would explain the use of EMUs as the donor vehicles. 

 

These could then be used on DMU operated services which spend most of their time on electrified routes (or which there are plenty).  

 

I have not managed to spot any mention of bi-mode (OLE/Hydrogen) in the various articles, but I agree that would be more sensible, if it is a practical proposition, given the apparent positioning of the hydrogen tanks in the bays currently occupied by the pantograph, on at least one of the vehicles in view. Perhaps bi-mode would require the H-tank to be placed elsewhere, maybe taking up passenger space, if the panto is to be retained?

 

In any event, the Alstom new build Coradia iLint hydrogen powered 2 car unit, is already a reality in Germany, where two units are currently under test undergoing safety and network operation approvals. They have firm orders for 14 (Lower Saxony) for in-service in 2021, with a total agreement in principle for a total of 60 so far, across three other Lander. There is a further plan for a greater number elsewhere, although another firm is in contention. But this is not bi-mode as far as I can work out, despite being a new-build. Maybe it is not a good combination in practical or cost terms?



#20 jjb1970

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 14:08

The question of whether to back hydrogen power or batteries is perhaps the singularly biggest transport power question we face and has been a hot potato for quite a few years. Both have advocates and strong arguments. Traditionally the big argument in favour of hydrogen fuel cells (personally I just don't see using hydrogen in internal combustion engines as being sensible) has been suitability for long range via normal re-fuelling in combination with the fact that batteries rely on rare metals and their manufacture and recycling can be problematic in environmental terms. Against that, hydrogen isn't exactly a clean fuel if sourced from a hydrocarbon feedstock in an energy intensive process (and people sometimes get carried away with their view of just how much renewable electricity we currently have), battery chemistry (leading to higher energy density, longer range, less reliance of hard to obtain metals) seems to be advancing rapidly and safe storage and use of hydrogen does present certain issues. Some of the risk management issues can be addressed by using hydrogen carriers and reforming.
My own view is still leaning more towards batteries, but that's just my opinion.

#21 Christopher125

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 14:25

So when these trains reach the 2040 cut-off for diesel power they will 50+ years old!

Surely by then they would have been re-cycled into tins or knives or whatever and replaced by something else?

 

Doesn't seem very logical to me.

Sounds more like trying to re-use trains that Govt policy has made no use for.

What about the loads of 350s that will become surplus (many not very old) when WMR gets it's new stock?

 

Keith

 

It's entirely logical - modern (and presumably DC-convertible) 350/2s are far more likely to find new homes as conventional EMUs than 321s, they are nearly 40 tons heavier which could have quite an impact on range, and only 30 of them are going off-lease compared to the 100+ 321s.

 

IMO finding new uses for perfectly serviceable trains is to be applauded, the re-tractioned/air-conditioned Renatus fleet in particular would be far superior to 150s and the like.


Edited by Christopher125, 15 May 2018 - 14:29 .


#22 cravensdmufan

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 14:52

Further to my OP,  I contacted the Sunday Times re: their error in reporting that the 321's are diesel trains.  They have now amended their online digital article.

 

That detail apart, the general matter of hydrogen power for trains is very interesting.


Edited by cravensdmufan, 15 May 2018 - 14:56 .

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#23 Mersey507003

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 15:51

Is this potential conversion to hydrogen power or batteries in order for the units to work away from 25Kv



#24 Joseph_Pestell

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 16:29

In that presentation, the speaker mentions the difficulty of accommodating hydrogen cylinders within the UK loading gauge.

 

But with a 4-car 321 taking the place of a two-car 150, does it matter too much if the motor pantograph coach is completely closed off to passengers to leave space for hydrogen cylinders (heavy) above each bogie. Or one could close off each of the end saloons for the cylinders and leave the centre saloon for cyclists/parcels/guard.


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#25 Mike Storey

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Posted 15 May 2018 - 18:36

The question of whether to back hydrogen power or batteries is perhaps the singularly biggest transport power question we face and has been a hot potato for quite a few years. Both have advocates and strong arguments. Traditionally the big argument in favour of hydrogen fuel cells (personally I just don't see using hydrogen in internal combustion engines as being sensible) has been suitability for long range via normal re-fuelling in combination with the fact that batteries rely on rare metals and their manufacture and recycling can be problematic in environmental terms. Against that, hydrogen isn't exactly a clean fuel if sourced from a hydrocarbon feedstock in an energy intensive process (and people sometimes get carried away with their view of just how much renewable electricity we currently have), battery chemistry (leading to higher energy density, longer range, less reliance of hard to obtain metals) seems to be advancing rapidly and safe storage and use of hydrogen does present certain issues. Some of the risk management issues can be addressed by using hydrogen carriers and reforming.
My own view is still leaning more towards batteries, but that's just my opinion.

 

That would be true, as regards the green credentials of hydrogen extraction, if that was the intention.

 

But AFAIK, it is not. Germany (or Alstom initially) are developing hydrogen extraction plants powered by wind turbines, and Alstom in the UK appears to be developing a relationship with a petro-chemical company who produce chlorine gas in the North West and also Teeside, a by-product of which is hydrogen, currently going to waste. Whilst the production of chlorine itself is not necessarily a green process (I have no idea) the fact that it is being done anyway and that the waste product can become a useful fuel, is certainly carbon neutral. Meanwhile Alstom have their own hydrogen production facility near their works, also in the North West. I understand, from Rail Europe, that Germany are seeking similar arrangements in the longer term.

 

Also in favour of hydrogen is that re-fuelling (of the iLent anyway) takes only 15 minutes, giving a range of some 800Km for that 2 car Coradia - not sure what is being claimed exactly for the 4 car 321 conversion, but I think 450 miles was mentioned somewhere? The range and refuelling time is somewhat superior to current Tesla technology (which appears to have hit a bit of a brick wall on further efficiency at the moment, after the Australian solar farm experiment demonstrating enhanced charge retention). In the short term therefore, pending further step changes in battery power technology and useability, the H has it, IMHO.


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