Chinese cities have become increasingly known more for pollution than for the new skyscrapers that have transformed skylines over the past two decades of development.
This month, Chinese mass transit took a step toward alleviate the pollution problem. The world’s first hydrogen-powered streetcar rolled off a production line at Qingdao Sifang Co. The tram will be able to reach speeds as high as 43 mph. Range will be 62 miles, after which the tram will take 3 minutes to refuel.
Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity by creating a chemical reaction using hydrogen and oxygen. The only byproduct is water. This means that the 380-passenger, hydro-powered tram will be able to provide pollution-free public transportation in China’s cities.
The Sifang hydrogen tram is part of the Chinese government’s plans to boost rail technology. According to Bloomberg, the plan calls for $US32-billion in investment over a 5-year period. China would also construct an addition 1,200 miles of tram tracks during this time.
Although hydrogen fuel cell technology has not been commonly employed in public transit. Carmakers such as General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota have all invested in this alternative means of propulsion.
Critics of hydrogen fuel cells often point out that although the technology itself emits only water, hydrogen requires conventional means of power generation to produce.
In addition to the hydrogen tram, state-owned Sifang also intends to build traditional streetcars, including licensed Skoda models from the Czech Republic.