Vouginha train

On the tracks to decarbonizing the first train in Portugal

On the tracks to decarbonizing the first train in Portugal

The plan is to do this with the historical train that runs the Vouga line in summers

The municipal website of Porto has announced an interesting and, in a way, groundbreaking, proposal for beginning to make the country’s trains more sustainable. The idea is to begin with the old diesel train running the Vouga line between the towns of Aveiro and Espinho.

The diesel engine will be replaced with hydrogen fuel cells which will produce the electricity necessary to generate the motion. This is a multi-partner project, which involves engineers from the University of Porto and the start-up NomadTech.

This will not come at a low cost, which is why the project has been presented to the European Union for funding. The overall initiative will consist of six stages, with the final ‘H2Rail’ entering testing in 2023.

The train, affectionately known as ‘Vouginha’, was first drawn by a steam engine at the end of the 19th century

The railway mobility vehicles are also a tourist attraction of their own, given that the engine was made in 1964 and the carriages date back to the beginning of the 20th century. They only run in summertime until October but given the European Union’s ambitions in the field of railway travel, they are starting to look like a historic relic in more ways than just their appearance and external design.

It is laudable that decarbonization of the local trains should begin by the polluting ones, and it is also a good way to show that heritage vehicles can be re-equipped to meet the standards of the future in a way that works for all.

There are a number of lines that are not electrified where there are diesel trains, consisting of a diesel engine that is used to power an electric generator. The goal is to replace this set with a hydrogen fuel cell, which produces electricity. This transformation will reduce costs since the electrification of the lines is something more expensive,” said Adrian Carvalho, director of Electrotechnical and Computer Engineer Department at U. Porto.

It was calculated that installing hydrogen fuel cells in the engines would actually be cheaper than the total electrification of the railway network.

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