Hydrogen on Track

Trains and industrial equipment now, cars later

5 min read

Hydrogen is routinely dismissed as a ”decades away” fuel technology for vehicle propulsion. But while much attention has been focused on fuel-cell-powered passenger cars, a little-noticed but promising development has been taking place in rail transportation and heavy industry, where experiments with hydrogen-fuel-cell propulsion are well under way.

Among the objectives: running equipment that operates indoors or underground on fuel cells rather than on batteries; powering small rail ­systems at mines, factories, and military bases; and replacing diesel-electric locomotives on suburban lines with fuel-cell-driven electric motors. One company at the forefront of these developments is Vehicle Projects LLC, in Denver.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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