JR East introduces hybrid train

JR East, the Japanese railway company here in central Japan, has introduced the world's first environmentally friendly hybrid train into commercial service.

The train is powered by a diesel engine together with an electric battery that gets recharged by energy created from braking at curves and when entering stations, East Japan Railway spokesman Shinichi Harada explained to AP (quoted by US environmental NGO NRDC):

Although gas-and-electric hybrid automobiles are already touted as a way to fight global warming, the JR East's hybrid train is the first of its kind in the world, Harada said. The train, called Kiha E200, developed by East Japan Railway Co., will debut on the Koumi Line in central Japan on July 31. The new technology helps reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter by up to 60 percent, compared to conventional trains, Harada said. It cuts fuel consumption by up to 20 percent, and also runs more quietly.

"It is our responsibility to help reduce global warming by running environmentally friendly means of transportation," Harada said.

Harada also says JR East, is in the process to decide whether to mass produce the hybrid train cars... Read more about their R&D program here.

I do like trains. My first train trips alone from my Swedish home town Malmö to meet my grandparents who lived in Osby, two hours away! What adventure for such a lad. I was maybe eight or nine years old. My mother has once said that maybe she allowed me to have too much sense of independence and wonder at such a young age (as I am now very far away in Japan) but I don't really like to think she has any regrets. I intend to continue supporting train companies, and I do hope they intend to become increasingly "green".

East Japan Railway Company (JR East) has researched and developed a fuel cell system for railcars, and announced the first test run of the World’s First Fuel Cell Hybrid Railcar on October 19th, 2006. The control system for the railcar is based on a diesel hybrid system, but replaces the diesel engine with a fuel cell that uses hydrogen as fuel. This efficient system supplies the necessary electric power from both the fuel cell and the storage battery when accelerating, and the storage battery is recharged by electric power produced by the regenerative brakes when braking. The maximum speed of the railcar is 80km/h and it can run for 70km - 80km before needing to be refueled with hydrogen. The test run was held at the site of the rolling stock manufacturer in Yokohama City, and the railcar smoothly accelerated to a speed of about 50km/h.

Source: JR East Press Release April 2006

More trainspotting: JR East Environmental Reports and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reports here.


Pandabonium said…
Interesting. Of course they advertise them as environmentally "friendly" when they are really "less unfriendly". The USA needs to stop subsidizing cars and trucks and re-invest in rail.

The hydrogen train is a cute gimmick, but hydrogen is not an efficient means of storing energy, fuel cells are still very expensive and short lived, and hydrogen is presently made from natural gas. So, I don't see that train being anything other than a PR campaign.

Bottom line is that trains are vastly more efficient and less unfriendly to the environment than cars and trucks, and we should support policies that encourage their use.
Martin J Frid said…
The PR effect can serve as a great motivator too. It can bring young engineers to a company, and they can go on to do other great things. Companies that do not have CSR programs have found it difficult to recruit new talent in Japan and Europe.
Pandabonium said…
That's a good point I would not have thought of.

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