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21 Sep, 2016 11:38

Green & quiet: Germany gets world’s 1st zero-emission hydrogen-powered train

The first CO2-emission-free train powered by hydrogen, dubbed ‘hydrail,’ has been unveiled at the Berlin InnoTrans trade show and is due to start operating next year.

The ‘Coradia iLint’ train developed by French company Alstom was presented to the on Tuesday.

Alstom is proud to present a breakthrough innovation in clean transportation,” the company’s chairman and CEO, Henri Poupart-Lafarge, said in a statement.

The hydrail will be the first hydrogen passenger train to regularly operate over long distances. It is set to start running in Germany in December 2017, on the Buxtehude-Bremervörde-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven regional line in Lower Saxony,  to Die Welt.

Letters of intent have also been signed with four German lands for 60 hydrail trains already, and orders for between 40 and 70 more units are expected by the end of 2017, Railway Gazette .

The outlet also states that transport authorities in Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia have expressed interest in obtaining hydrails, while the developer claims countries including Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands want the trains as well.

The hydrail operates on electricity obtained from lithium ion batteries, powered by a fuel cell using a hydrogen tank stored on the train’s roof. The energy storage device is the pride of the developers, as it is controlled by an intelligent energy management system.

The hydrogen power supply technology is environmentally friendly as it is completely CO2-emission-free and so does not pollute the air, presenting an alternative to the diesel-powered trains that are used across Germany. There are also plans to provide the necessary hydrogen-producing plants along train routes. 

We will build a corresponding supply system for the trains to [get refueled],” Jens sprat, head of the company’s Urban Transport department, told Die Welt.

The company says, however, that the train’s fuel tank capacity will allow it to travel long distances without needing extra fuel. On a full tank – which is 94kg per car – the hydrail will be able to operate for one full day, or go as far as 600 to 800km. 

The train is also significantly quieter than diesel railcars, which will please residents living in close proximity to railway tracks. The only noise it emits is the sound of the wheels on the tracks and the sound produced by air resistance. The hydrail’s top speed is said to be 140kph.

After two years of development, the first several samples of iLint have been completed and will be transferred to the German Federal Railway Authority starting this fall.

Although the price of the hydrail is so far being kept secret, it is expected to be higher than that of diesel-powered trains. Alstom, however, anticipates that operating costs will be comparable to those of diesel units.

The rail industry has been working on hydrogen-powered trains for the past 15 years. Several prototypes have already been made, mainly in freight transport. The Japanese Railway Research Institute presented the prototype of a rail car with a fuel cell in Tokyo in 2004, and two years later the East Japan Railway Company carried out the first hydrail test drive. Last year, the South China Rail Corporation presented the first trams running on fuel cell technology.