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Government approves millions for world's first hydrogen-electric high-speed rail technology — and it's set to retrofit diesel trains

It's expected to be able to run at speeds up to 155 mph.

It's expected to be able to run at speeds up to 155 mph.

Photo Credit: iStock

The Spanish government has given the go-ahead to develop the world's first hydrogen-electric high-speed train capable of going over 155 mph, offering a multi-million dollar grant to help fund the project, Hydrogen Insight reported.

Spain has nearly 2,000 miles of high-speed rail in the country, the second-largest high-speed rail system in the world, according to Hydrogen Insight. Much of it is high-speed rail with overhead electrical lines to power the trains, but for stretches of rail without overhead power lines, trains rely on diesel generators, which release multiple pollutants that are harmful to the planet and to human health. 

This project looks to replace those combustion engines with hydrogen fuel cells and batteries to power trains on stretches without overhead lines.

The plan is to retrofit the Talgo 250 train with hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. The Talgo 250 currently has two cars containing diesel generators that power the train where there are no overhead lines. This project will replace one of those cars with one that will contain the hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. 

The train will be fitted with an automatic track-gauge change, which will allow it to run on both the high-speed track and the conventional track. It's expected to be able to run at speeds up to 155 mph, but Hydrogen Insight did not have all the details on the train and how and where the hydrogen power would be used on the tracks. 

According to another article from the same outlet, profiling Irish Rail and its experience with hydrogen following similar plans announced in Ireland earlier in 2023, the usage is still "experimental" but "can bridge the gap."

The funding supplied by the Spanish government will also go toward the development of two hydrogen refueling stations. 

Hydrogen is cleaner than traditional sources of energy because when it's burned, it mainly releases water vapor, as opposed to harmful pollutants that are released when traditional sources of energy are burned.

Hydrogen is produced using an electrolyzer, which separates the hydrogen molecules from the oxygen molecules in water.

This project is just one of many from a program for which the Spanish government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make the move toward cleaner sources of energy, per PV Magazine. 

Unfortunately, there is no word yet on when the train will be operational.

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