Irish Rail will test hydrogen-powered freight locomotive without fuel cells

Image: Flickr. RowanC82

Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail, the Irish national railway company, will start tests on a freight locomotive retrofitted with a specialised internal combustion engine (ICE) hydrogen system. This project is quite unique for the rail sector since, usually, hydrogen for locomotives is stored in fuel cells placed on their tops. “This project will showcase a unique approach where hydrogen will be used in the locomotive’s current internal combustion engine,” the company highlighted.

Using the hydrogen through the current ICE system will require minimal changes for the locomotives, making this process faster and cheaper than the fuel cells alternative. For this initiative, Iarnród Éireann will cooperate with DiGas, a Latvian company sepcialised in dual fuel technology development. The Irish company will provide a ‘071’ Class Diesel Locomotive and provide the workshop for the installation, testing, and commissioning activities. The Latvian one will manufacture, deliver, and install a Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine (H2 ICE) retrofit kit.

If tests are successful, all locomotiives will be retrofitted

The project, which should cost around 1,5 million euros, is still in its embryonic stages, with the two companies focussing on the design process. Other than the two companies involved, the funds will come from the EIT Urban Mobility (a body of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology) and the Mechanical Engineering Competence Centre (a Latvian body receiving the funding from the European Recovery and Resilience Facility).

Two testing phases are planned across 2024 and 2025. “Phase 1 will be focused on static testing of the locomotion to check power and emissions output. Phase 2 will follow in 2025 and focus on service trials of the locomotion out on the rails”, the Irish company specified. Iarnród Éireann added that they can currently count on 12 ‘071’ freight locomotives. If the tests are deemed successful, then all of them can be converted and start running on hydrogen.

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Author: Marco Raimondi

Marco Raimondi is an editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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