When we talk about hydrogen-powered transportation, cars usually dominate the conversation. According to CityLab, a French rail company is now seeking to bring the energy innovation to trains. The Coradia iLint was unveiled by Alstom at the InnoTrans railway trade fair earlier this month, and when it launches in Germany next year, it will be the first passenger rail service to run on hydrogen power.
Many trains currently run on diesel, a fuel that’s been found to emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. The only byproduct released by the Coradia iLint is steam. A fuel cell onboard converts chemical energy from a large hydrogen tank into electricity. At top speeds, a motor propels the train forward at up to 87 miles per hour. Lithium batteries on the bottom of the car store any leftover energy that’s produced.
In addition to running cleanly and quietly, the train will also be carbon-neutral. The hydrogen used to fuel it will be recycled from the waste produced by chemical plants. By using preexisting hydrogen, no additional harm will be inflicted on the environment.
The first train won’t go very far and it won’t be visiting any bustling destinations: The initial route is set for a 60-mile stretch of Germany connecting the town of Buxtehude near Hamburg to the beach town Cuxhaven. But that doesn’t make the accomplishment any less significant. For shorter trips, Coradia iLint presents a cleaner alternative to diesel, and a more cost-effective alternative to converting to electric. Three additional German states have already expressed interest in getting hydrogen trains of their own installed. The first model is set to launch in December 2017.
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