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 To lead the Indian Railways in introduction of fuel cells as a source of electric power for rolling stock and for standalone applications.


Fuel Cells promise clean, noiseless and standalone units of power source. They work o­n direct conversion of fuel (hydrogen derived from fuels) into energy and give out o­nly water as waste. Fuel Cells have still not become mainstream, though small implementations have started, primarily in the automotive sector. They offer modularity similar to batteries, though require relatively complex control systems to work.

Government of India’s Policy

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has been promoting developments in the area of Fuel Cell since the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. The government is also planning to set up a National Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cell Centre (NHEFCC) during the Twelfth Plan (2010-17), the proposal o­n hydrogen and fuel cells envisions acceleratedRD&D, and pilot projects o­n a variety of technologies and related infrastructure. 

Indian Railways - Status

The first prototype small scale fuel cell is operational in an ALCo locomotive in the TKD diesel shed. It is a 2KW system which provides auxiliary power when the main engine of the locomotive is shut down. This is the first ever initiative in Indian Railways.


Fuel Cells have still not become mainstream, though small implementations have started, primarily in automotive sectors and industrial material handling vehicles. The USA, the European Commission, Japan and China have announced major initiatives and state funding to promote fuel cell technologies. 

There are multiple technologies that use inputs like phosphoric acid, molten carbonates, solid oxides etc. but all of them eventually use hydrogen in the converter. Standard units of 10-20 KW are now increasingly available. Fuel Cell units often work in conjunction with a battery and require sophisticated but not control systems to work. 

Most of the parts and assemblies are imported. The simplest option would be to use the Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFCs) with compressed hydrogen storage in the initial stages.

State of the Industry

A 10 kW PEMFC has been used in a prototype vehicle developed in India, in addition to a battery bank. Efforts are being made to develop indigenous technology for production of fuel cell systems in the country.

Indian Industry is fully capable of building fuel cell systems with indigenous electronic controls and battery, but with imported fuel cell stacks. 


IROAF will lead the IR in introduction of fuel cells as a source of distributed electric power. Fuels cell will be gradually inducted for use in workshops and factories in fork-lifters and material trucks, shunting locos, railcars and rail buses, guard vans in freight trains and in specialized wagon and coaching stock for refrigeration as well as in standalone installations

Source : Indian Railways Organization For Alternate Fuels (IROAF) CMS Team Last Reviewed on: 29-09-2014  

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