JR East [9020:JP], Japan’s major passenger railway company, will launch a safety test for Japan’s first hydrogen-powered hybrid train in late March, as reported by Nikkei Asia on February 19. The train, dubbed Hybari, is equipped with a zero-emission system jointly developed by JR East, Hitachi [6501:JP], and Toyota Motor [7203:CH]. Powered by hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, Hybari could reach a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour (km/h) and run up to 140 kilometers with a single filling of high-pressure hydrogen. Commercialization of the hybrid train is planned for 2030.
JR East plans to replace its 440 diesel trains with hydrogen hybrid trains after checking energy efficiency through the trials. However, the price for a Hybari could reach around USD34.8m, while the high costs of hydrogen fuel also limited the development of such environment-friendly transport. The Japanese government aims for 3m tons of hydrogen consumption per year by 2030 and 20m tons by 2050, a major increase from around 200 tons in 2020. To achieve the target, Japan’s energy corporates, such as Iwatani [8088:JP] and Kawasaki Heavy Industries [7012:JP], have been working towards developing a robust hydrogen supply chain to lower the price of the fuel. In addition, Japan’s state-backed New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) recently committed to funding a pilot scheme with USD260m, which tests artificial photosynthesis to produce green hydrogen using solar energy.