PHOTO CAPTION: Sifang Co. fuel cell tram is reputed to be world's first. Photo credit: www.ecns.cn

China Debuts Fuel Cell-Powered Electric Tram

The first production fuel cell tram can operate independent of traditional overhead electric cables, operating on renewably-produced hydrogen.

Published: 23-Mar-2015

A subsidiary of China South Rail Corporation has manufactured what it is claiming is the world's first hydrogen fuel cell-powered tram. Sifang Co. of Qingdao reportedly took some two years to solve key technical problems in order to develop the electrically-powered tram, which has a range of 100 km (62 miles) and a top speed of 70 km/h (43.5 mph).

Refilling of the track-mounted, public transit vehicle's hydrogen tank takes just 3 minutes. Sifang's chief engineer, Liang Jianying, points out that the average length of tram lines in China is 15 km, meaning that the vehicle can make three round trips before needing to be refueled. Each tram can carry up to 380 passengers.

While emissions from the fuel cell stack, which operates at an internal temperature of 100° C, consists of water vapor, the source of the hydrogen gas typically comes from the reformation of natural gas (methane), still releasing copious amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Hydrogen created by electrolysis using renewable energy sources mean the trams can have a nearly zero environmental footprint, while eliminating the need for traditional overhead electrical cable.

Availability and pricing have not been announced.

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