Oil prices have remained low for several weeks now. Perhaps, if this trend holds, and taking into account setbacks due to the coronavirus, the EU and other countries will look differently at their ‘green’ support measures, in particular stimulation for the introduction of alternative fuels on the railways. Below is the opinion of Sergei Ageev – Head of the Production Division of TEEMP (diesel-electric drive solutions provider) – regarding prospects for battery and hydrogen power:
‘Battery power is not a competitor to the internal combustion engine (ICE), but a partner. Today, the electric car is the dirtiest mode of transport in terms of efficiency and the losses when transmitting energy generated by burning hydrocarbons. Hybrid (combined diesel and autonomous electric fuel) is the most efficient in economic terms and in its reduced CO2 emissions. For example, during testing, the hybrid bus which we developed with our Belarusian partners proved to be one third more efficient than a regular bus, and more reliable and cheaper than a Moscow electrobus.
Hydrogen fuel is unlikely to receive rapid development for transport in the near future. If we are talking about CO2 emissions, this is not a solution, since 95 % of the volume of hydrogen is produced by steam conversion of methane and coal, where CO2 is the main by-product. When it comes to economics, the IEA estimates that the costs of hydrogen production will decrease by 1/3 only by 2030 But it is clear that oil and gas prices will also continue to fall. The lack of transportation infrastructure and safety issues are additional counterarguments against hydrogen.
So far, about half of the Russian Railways network remains nonelectrified, which allows us to talk about alternative fuels. It is clear that hydrogen will have a place in the future, but today, hybrid solutions that do not require large-scale changes to infrastructure are more efficient. We presented the relevant draft of a fuel system combining Li-Ion batteries, supercapacitors and internal combustion engines to Russian Railways in 2019.’
Published in a review by the ‘Railway Equipment’ magazine on 15 April - link