Ireland: Trialling Europe's first hydrogen freight locomotive

Ireland: Trialling Europe's first hydrogen freight locomotive

Unlike traditional hydrogen rail projects that use fuel cells or dedicated engines, this initiative adapts the locomotive's existing internal combustion engine, providing a more practical and cost-effective means of decarbonising existing diesel locomotives.

Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail, the operator of Ireland's national rail network, has partnered with Latvia's DIGAS on a €1.5 million project. The aim? To retrofit a diesel freight locomotive and convert it from diesel to hydrogen power. The project, a proof of concept, aims to help Iarnród Éireann reduce its carbon emissions, align with sustainable development goals, improve competitiveness and significantly reduce its carbon footprint.

As part of the collaboration, Iarnród Éireann will provide a Class 071 diesel locomotive for the conversion process and its workshop for installation, testing and commissioning. DIGAS will manufacture, supply and install a Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (H2 ICE) retrofit kit that will essentially convert the diesel locomotive into a hydrogen powered locomotive. This conversion will enable the locomotive to run on renewable, zero-emission hydrogen fuel, a switch from traditional diesel.

Unlike other hydrogen rail projects, which rely on fuel cells or custom-built hydrogen engines, this initiative will use the locomotive's existing internal combustion engine, requiring minimal modifications. If successful, this project could provide a practical and cost-effective solution for decarbonising existing diesel locomotives and converting them to hydrogen-powered engines.

The project plan consists of two test phases scheduled for 2024 and 2025. Phase 1 will focus on static testing to assess performance and emissions. Phase 2, scheduled for 2025, will include real-life service trials. All designs and test standards will be subject to approval by the Commission for Railway Regulation (CRR).

Jim Meade, Chief Executive of Iarnród Éireann, explained the potential impact of this project: "Iarnród Éireann has 18 071 class diesel locomotives in railway operations, 12 of which are used to support freight operations. If the conversion tests are successful, these locomotives can be converted to greener and more efficient alternatives."

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