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A Techno-economic Analysis of Ammonia-fuelled Powertrain Systems for Rail Freight


All diesel-only trains in the UK will be removed from services by 2040. High volumetric density, rapid refuelling ability, and sophisticated experience in infrastructure and logistics make ammonia a perfect hydrogen carrying fuel for rail freight, which urgently requires an economically viable solution. This study conducted a novel techno-economic study of ammonia-fuelled fuel cell powertrains to be compared with current diesel engine-based system and emerging direct hydrogen-fuelled fuel cell system. The results demonstrate that hydrogen-fuelled Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFCs) and ammonia-fuelled PEMFCs (using an ammonia cracker) are more cost-effective in terms of Levelized Cost of Electricity. The ammonia fuel storage requires 61.5-75 % less space compared to the hydrogen storage. Although the ammonia-fuelled Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs) powertrain has the highest electricity generation efficiency (56%), the overall cost requires a major reduction by 70% before it could be considered as an economically viable solution.

Funding source: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The authors are grateful for the financial support from EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, United Kingdom) through the project ‘Powering Carbon-free Autonomous Shipping: Ammonia/Hydrogen dual-fuelled Linear Engine-Generator (EP/ S00193X/2).
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: United Kingdom

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