在气候危机中，交通运输行业对脱碳的需求不断增长，而Hydroflex只是其中的一种产品。 2016年，德国推出了Coradia iLint，这是世界上第一台以氢为动力的火车，它可以依靠一箱燃料行驶600英里，与传统火车依靠一箱柴油实现的行驶距离相当。美国的工程师也正在努力为各州带来一种“水力”版本。但是，由于铁路已经是交通运输中最低的温室气体排放者之一，因此，对铁路系统进行大修的价值是否值得，还有待观察。
As old diesel trains are phased out of rail networks around the world, the UK is about to test a new type of engine that could help to decarbonise railways – hydrogen-powered trains.
In the midst of the climate crisis, the demand for decarbonisation across transport industries has grown and the Hydroflex is just one product of that. In 2016, Germany unveiled the Coradia iLint, the world’s first hydrogen-powered train, which can run for 600 miles on a single tank of fuel – on par with the distances that traditional trains achieve on a tank of diesel. Engineers in the US are also working on bringing a version of a “hydrail” to the states. However, since rail is already among the lowest greenhouse gas emitters in transportation, it remains to be seen whether the value of a massive overhaul of rail systems will be worth it.
The UK already has 42% of its route miles electrified, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, meaning those trains are ready to become zero-carbon, if they use a renewable source of power. A single line running to London from Hampshire is currently the only one in the world to run solely on solar power. However, the remaining 58% of UK track is not yet electrified, so diesel trains are still needed to keep those areas connected by rail.
Engineers working on the Hydroflex say that hydrogen-powered trains could be the answer to decarbonising the UK’s rail system without incurring the high cost of electrifying its track. According to an assessment of 20 lines in Britain and mainland Europe, electrifying a single kilometer of track can cost £750,000 to £1m ($965,000 to $1.3m). Hydrogen-powered trains are less expensive, because they don’t require massive track overhauls and they can be created by retrofitting existing diesel trains. This is especially beneficial in rural areas where there are more miles to cover, but fewer passengers to justify the expense.
But hydrogen trains come with their own challenges.
“We store about 20kg of hydrogen, and that is enough to run the fuel cell for three hours,” says Stuart Hillmansen, professor at Birmingham University and leader of the Hydroflex project. As such, longer-distance journeys wouldn’t yet be feasible. Engineers at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education, Porterbrook’s partner on the Hydroflex, are working on ways to extend these limits.