A hydrogen fuel cell system generates electric power to run an electric motor, providing tractive energy. This technology represents an alternative to diesel for trains running on non-electrified tracks.
Hybrid battery and fuel cell configurations for rail are essential for increasing performance and range. Hybridized fuel cell trains can accommodate cargo up to 5,000 tonnes, travel at velocities of up to 180 km/h and attain a range of up to 700 km. Hydrogen-powered rail vehicles can operate for more than 18 hours without replenishing and can be refuelled in less than 20 minutes. However, when Fuel Cell technology is implemented without structural alterations to the body, it can cause issues such as lower passenger capacity or limited driving performance. Additionally, bi-mode trains can run solely on electricity from the catenary while also using Fuel Cell technology for non-electrified areas of the network Battery-powered trains suffer also from reduced range and increased idleness for recharging and are only appropriate for a limited number of routes. Hydrogen locomotives, on the other hand, have a promisingly low total cost of operation (TCO). A TCO analysis (https://rail-research.europa.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Study-on-the-use-of-fuel-cells-and-hydrogen-in-the-railway-environment_final.pdf) demonstrates that hydrogen-powered trains are less expensive than diesel and catenary electrification when the following conditions are met: the price of diesel reaches 1.35 euros per Liter and the electricity price is less than 50 euros per megawatt-hour. There is no compromise in performance, and hydrogen-powered railroads are as versatile and adaptable as diesel-powered locomotives with comparable range. They are capable of meeting the needs of rail transport just as well as diesel trains.