As our reporting on new Chinese tramways shows, wire-free operation is a valued aspect of the development of this ‘new’ mode of public transport, not because it is needed to avoid the overhead visual impact of historic city centres (as in Europe), but because of the need to be seen to embrace the latest technology. The new lines in Chinese cities rarely penetrate the central area, but instead serve developing suburbs and technological and business parks, often as metro feeders.
On 19 March domestic rolling stock manufacturer CSR Sifang of Qingdao unveiled a 100% low-floor articulated tram powered by hydrogen fuel cells, claiming it as a world first (neglecting the TIG/m heritage-style cars already operating in Aruba and soon to feature in Dubai, and the 2011 Spanish operator FEVE’s unveiling of a rebuilt ex-Vicinal tram powered by two hydrogen fuel cells).
CSR Sifang claims its tram can be refueled in three minutes and run for up to 100km (62 miles) at speeds of up to 70km/h (43.5mph). The vehicle appears to be based on the 31.4m Skoda 15T three-section eight-axle car, which CSR is licensed to produce for the Chinese market, and the manufacturer says production versions will be offered in multiple lengths from two to five sections.
The tram can carry 380 passengers (60 seated), while storage bottles onboard the vehicle can take 1000kg of hydrogen under pressure with maximum temperatures not exceeding 100°C. The only product passed to the atmosphere is water.