Yomiuri Shimbun. Japan’s Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) has studies underway to get a fuel cell-powered train into service by about 2010.
Created in 1987 as the joint R&D unit for the seven Japan Railway companies, the institute has among its projects the development of a Maglev system. RTRI has been working on fuel-cell trains since 2001, when it successfully ran a mini-train powered by fuel cells with an output of one kilowatt-hour with one person aboard. In February 2004, the institute tested a prototype with an output of 30 kWh and a top speed of 30 km/h.
The fuel-cell train now envisioned by RTRI will consist of two cars, one equipped with a set of four motors, a transformer and a battery, and the other equipped with fuel cells and a hydrogen cylinder.
The vehicle will be able to run at a maximum speed of 120 km/h and travel a maximum of 300 to 400 kilometers before the hydrogen cylinder needs replacing.
A major hurdle to be cleared before the planned fuel cell-powered train can be put into service is to boost the fuel cells’ efficiency, according to Kenichi Uruga, chief of the institute’s Vehicle Control Technology Department.
To run a couple of carriages, fuel cells capable of turning out 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity are needed, he said. Fuel cells capable of producing that amount of electricity currently available are too large to be set up in the envisaged vehicle, Uruga said.