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Details on hydrogen trains project unveiled in India

2 March 2023
Reading time ~ 4 min
Diesel train to be converted to hydrogen traction, Sonipat-Jind line, India
Diesel train to be converted to hydrogen traction, Sonipat-Jind line, India. Source: indiarailinfo
Ivolgina Anna, Editorial Contributor to International Projects, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency
Reading time ~ 4 min
Stolchnev Alexey, Russian Projects Editor, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency

India: The country’s Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw elaborated on the previously announced plans to purchase 35 hydrogen trains. One train is expected to cost an estimated INR 800 mln ($9.7 mln), and the total capital expenditure, together with infrastructure preparations, will be INR 2.5 bln ($635.4 mln).

As to Urban Transport News, the national operator Indian Railways (IR) is planning to float a tender. Alstom, Siemens, Cummins, Hitachi Rail, BHEL, Wabtec, as well as Medha Servo Drives (MSD), are named as participants in a detailed meeting with IR last week.

MSD is now converting a ten-car diesel train with head motor cars into two five-car trains with hydrogen battery traction. The original train was manufactured at ICF plant (part of IR) in Chennai, and MSD won the corresponding refurbishment tender last spring. This year, several stages of testing of the two prototypes are to be conducted: factory acceptance tests to check the operation of all train systems, assessment of all vehicle subsystems and dynamic trials at a speed of 110-120 km/h. The latter is scheduled for late 2023 on the 89-km Sonipat-Jind line with 12 stations. They are to last six months, and the prototypes will have covered 50,000 km of trial run during this time. The cost of the project, including infrastructure, is said to be INR 1.1 bln ($13.5 mln).

Under IR specifications, the power of one vehicle is to be 1,200 kW, of which 800 kW are fuel cells and 400 kW are batteries. The fuel cell unit, which has already been ordered from the US Ballard, is to power three-phase AC traction motors through a traction converter. The train’s traction system will include motors, inverter, auxiliary generator, alternator, hydrogen storage tank, air supply and cooling system, heat exchangers, auxiliary power systems, microprocessor motor control system and diagnostic system.

However, the IR states in the specification that neither train bogies nor the car body itself are not to be modified. Meanwhile, the current power equipment is to be replaced by fuel cell power modules weighing approximately 14 t. The arrangement of fuel cell power modules (including batteries) is to be designed in a way that it does not exceed the established axle load limits (20.3 t). Whereas the power management system is to be designed so that the battery charge condition remains constant from the beginning to the end of the journey, with allowed depth of discharge up to 40%.

The train is to be designed to allow refuelling/replacement of hydrogen tanks within 45 minutes. Under the tender terms, MSD itself must provide hydrogen for the train, both during testing and for six months after it is put into permanent operation. The maximum acceptable operating temperature of the train is +55 °C (in the sun) and +47 °C (in the shade). The tender conditions also impose a two-year warranty and a three-year post-warranty service obligations on MSD. Train downtime for maintenance must not exceed 10% of the total running time of the rolling stock, otherwise the manufacturer will be fined.

There are also plans to overhaul 2 narrow-gauge diesel locomotives for hydrogen traction later in India.