Japan and the UK: Emission predictions of electric and hydrogen rail to 2050

Kathryn G. Logan*, John D. Nelson, Benjamin C. McLellan, Astley Hastings

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
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Electric trains (ETs) and hydrogen trains (HTs) offer an opportunity for both Japan and the UK to meet their national targets as part of the Paris Agreement. Although ETs and HTs are considered zero emission at the point of use, their true environmental impact is dependent upon non-tailpipe emissions from fuel/energy production and vehicle manufacture, maintenance and disposal. To assess and compare the carbon dioxide emissions produced from ETs and HTs in Japan and the UK from 2020 and 2050, the operating emissions of these trains were projected. Results compared ET and HT emissions with diesel fuelled trains (DFTs) to better assess which fuel type was the most environmentally friendly. Emissions per train, cumulative emissions and total energy required for ETs and HTs were compared.

Results indicated that even with technological improvements, DD DFTs produced the highest level of emissions in both countries, followed by HTs. Although ETs produced the lowest level of emissions, it is likely that a mix of both ETs and HTs will be required to meet passenger demand and for travel within rural areas. As Japan has already transitioned towards ETs, future policy focus should be placed on decarbonisation of their energy sector and a shift away from fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy, otherwise environmental benefits of ETs will be diminished. As the UK is decarbonising its electricity network, focus needs to be placed on electrifying the majority of the rail network and running the rest on hydrogen to decarbonise rail transport.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100344
Number of pages16
JournalTransportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Early online date7 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was carried out under the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) as part of the ADdressing Valuation of Energy and Nature Together (ADVENT) funded project. Funding was received from the Natural Environment Research Council (NE/M019691/1), United Kingdom and the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom. Funding was also received from the Postgraduate Research Grant from University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom.
This work has also emanated from research supported in part by a research grant from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the SFI Strategic Partnership Programme Grant number SFI/15/SPP/E3125.
The authors would also like to thank Dr Christian Brand, University of Oxford, for giving them access and guidance regarding the Trans- port Energy and Air Pollution Model (TEAM‐UK).


  • Carbon dioxide emissions
  • Electric trains
  • Hydrogen trains
  • Japan
  • public transport
  • UK


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