JR East, Hitachi, Toyota to Develop Fuel Cell Railway Vehicles

Ken Zino of AutoInformed.com on HYBARI - the Toyota Fuel Cell Train project

Hybari name was adopted to evoke an image of an advanced hybrid railway vehicle equipped with fuel cells and a main circuit storage battery. “HY” represents “hydrogen,” while “HYB” means “hybrid.”

East Japan Railway Company (“JR East”), Hitachi, Ltd., and Toyota Motor Corporation have entered into an agreement to collaborate on development of test railway vehicles equipped with hybrid systems that use hydrogen powered fuel cells and storage batteries as their source of electricity. “By collaborating to develop these test railway vehicles, we aim to further improve the environmental superiority of railways and realize a sustainable society,” the companies said this morning in Japan.

The development of innovative rolling stock powered by hydrogen in theory will contribute to the development of a low-carbon society as it helps to curb global warming and diversify energy sources. Hydrogen ensures minimal environmental impact because it does not emit any carbon dioxide when used as an energy source. It can be produced from various raw materials using renewable energy.

Combining their railway and automotive technologies, – JR East’s railway vehicle design and manufacturing technologies. Hitachi’s railway hybrid drive system technologies developed with JR East, and Toyota’s technologies acquired through development of the Mirai fuel cell electric vehicle and the SORA fuel cell bus – the three companies will adapt the fuel cells used in automobiles for railway applications. Toyota will develop the fuel cell and Hitachi will develop the hybrid drive system.

The hydrogen used to fill the hydrogen tank is supplied to the fuel cell and undergoes a chemical reaction with oxygen in the air to generate electricity. The main circuit storage battery is charged by electric power from the fuel cell device and by capturing and converting energy to electric power using regenerative braking. The hybrid drive system supplies the electric power to the traction motors from both the fuel cell and the main circuit storage battery, controlling the movement of the wheels.

Together, they will create hybrid (fuel cell) test vehicles with the aim of achieving the high-power output control necessary to drive railway vehicles, which are much larger than automobiles. The Hybari name was adopted to evoke an image of an advanced hybrid railway vehicle equipped with fuel cells and a main circuit storage battery that will generate innovation. “HY” represents “hydrogen,” while “HYB” means “hybrid.”

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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