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World's first hydrogen train to be rolled out across Germany

World's first hydrogen train to be rolled out across Germany

World's first hydrogen train to be rolled out across Germany

Last year, the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains began operating on a stretch of line between Cuxhaven and Buxtehude in Lower Saxony. Now, plans to roll out the project across the whole state - and even further afield - are progressing full steam ahead.

World’s first hydrogen-powered trains operating in Germany

Back in 2018, French train manufacturer Alstom delivered its first two hydrogen-powered trains - known as the Coradia iLint - to Lower Saxony. The bright-blue locomotives have since been serving commuter traffic on a 100-km route between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude (approximately 20 kilometres from Hamburg).

The hydrogen trains are a unique design, equipped with fuel cells that convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity to propel the train forward. They are capable of reaching speeds of up to 140 kilometres per hour, comparable to the diesel trains that normally serve this route. But rather than producing toxic fumes, the hydrogen train’s only waste product is steam.

Hydrogen trains a success in Lower Saxony

The route served by the hydrogen trains is one of the many in the country where no power lines are laid. Currently, around 40 percent of train lines in Germany are not electrified. Although the Federal Transport Ministry has plans to electrify great swathes of train tracks across Germany, the process is time-consuming and expensive. In the meantime, loud and polluting diesel trains continue to serve these routes.

The hydrogen trains, on the other hand, have been a roaring success: they are quiet, smooth and always run on time. Moreover, they have become a veritable attraction, with delegations coming from far and wide to see the two trains and their temporary refuelling station. In fact, the demand was so high that one even drove a “tour” across Germany, taking in stops such as Ludwigshafen, the Black Forest and Berlin.

The future is hydrogen?

“Diesel has its future behind it, and hydrogen has its future ahead of it,” says Rainer Peters, spokesman for LNVG, the organisation responsible for public transportation in Lower Saxony. LVNG has already ordered a further 14 hydrogen trains from Alstom, which are scheduled to start driving this route within the next two years, and is considering replacing its entire 126-train fleet with hydrogen-powered locomotives.

Elsewhere, Alstom has signed contracts with transport associations in other federal states in Germany, and as far afield as Britain, Norway and Canada. There is even talk of expanding the technology onto regular roads, with the company receiving requests for hydrogen-powered garbage trucks. Things are looking “promising,” says Alstom manager Jens Sprotte.

Thumb: Alstom

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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