Germany claims hydrogen rail first

A regional train operator in Germany claims to be the first company to run hydrogen-powered trains.

The new route, between the Lower Saxony towns of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude, uses hydrogen fuel cell trains from French company Alstom, purchased by German regional rail company LNVG.

Inside fuel cells, hydrogen stored on the roof of the train combines with oxygen to make power. When the hydrogen and oxygen combine, the only by-product is water.

Alstom’s model can travel1,000 kilometres, or 621 miles before it needs to refuel.

“We will not buy any more diesel trains, in order to do even more to combat climate change,” Carmen Schwable, a spokesperson for LNVG, told Deutsche Welle. “We [also] are convinced that diesel trains will no longer be economically viable in future.”

“Emission free mobility is one of the most important goals for ensuring a sustainable future and Alstom has a clear ambition to become the world leader in alternative propulsion systems for rail,” added Henri Poupart-Lafarge, CEO and chairman of Alstom.

“The world’s first hydrogen train, the Coradia iLint, demonstrates our clear commitment to green mobility combined with state-of-the-art technology. We are very proud to bring this technology into series operation as part of a world premiere.”

Despite numerous electrification projects in several countries, a significant part of Europe’s rail network will remain non-electrified in the long term. In many countries, the number of diesel trains in circulation is still high, with more than 4,000 cars in Germany, for instance.

Alstom currently has four contracts for hydrogen fuel cell powered regional trains. Two are in Germany, the first for 14 Coradia iLint trains in the region of Lower Saxony, and the second for 27 Coradia iLint trains in the Frankfurt metropolitan area. The third contract comes from Italy where Alstom is building 6 Coradia Stream hydrogen trains in the region of Lombardy – with the option for 8 more, while the fourth is in France for 12 Coradia Polyvalent hydrogen trains shared across four different French regions.

The Coradia iLint has been successfully tested in Austria, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden to name a few.