The world’s first hydrogen train has started service in Germany, connecting several cities in the north of the country.
Made by train manufacturer Alstom, the Coradia iLint hydrogen train represents the company’s wish to provide a cheap eco-friendly alternative to diesel, that can run without the need to electrify the lines.
Two of the trains will be in service in the Lower Saxony region of Germany, having been developed to use fuel cells to produce electricity from hydrogen.
Operated on behalf of the transport company LNVG, the two brand new trains were put into service on September 17 in order to replace the current diesel fleet of the railway company EVB.
On a full tank, the trains will be able to operate for 1,000 kilometres, the company stated in a press release, allowing them to operate without refuelling for the whole day.
Alston CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge describes this is a “revolution”, not only for the company but for the future of public transport.
“The Coradia iLint heralds a new era in emission-free rail transport. It is an innovation that results from French-German teamwork and exemplifies successful cross-border cooperation,” he says.
The hydrogen currently used by the trains is referred to as “gray” hydrogen – that is, it is derived from by-products of the chemical industry through highly CO2 emitting processes.
Alstom’s vision, however, is to eventually use hydrogen produced by 100% renewable means, via electrolysis.
Developed in France and made in Germany, the first two trains welcomed their first passengers last Monday on a 100km secondary line in Lower Saxony, in northern Germany.
The trains will now be the only such trains to service Germany’s north, traveling every day between the German towns of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude at speeds of up to 140km/hr until they are joined by 14 more units in 2021.
Equipped with fuel cells that convert the hydrogen stored on the roof and the ambient oxygen into electricity, the trains also carry lithium-ion batteries which can recover energy through regenerative braking.
The Lower Saxony’s Ministry of Economy and Transport is supporting LNVG’s purchase of the next phase of 14 hydrogen trains with more than €81 million ($A130 million.
Economy and Transport Minister Dr. Bernd Althusmann said:
“In successfully proving the operability of the fuel cell technology in daily service, we will set the course for rail transport to be largely operated climate-friendly and emission-free in the future. The state government of Lower Saxony is proud of putting this trendsetting project on the track together with LNVG.”
LVNG’s 120 diesel trains will reach the end of their life within the next 30 years, and LNVG chief Carmen Schwabl says that the purchase of the two hydrogen trains is the first step in finding ‘a sustainable and practical solution’.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.