Hydrogen-powered technology for the train has been around for over a decade though entirely being used to transport goods only. Germany is seeking to change this with the introduction of Coradia iLint, a train that will ferry more than 300 passengers at a go. It will become the first fully hydrogen train to cover long-distance routes. The train was unveiled to the public last week at the Berlin Inno Trans trade show.
The iLint will run on the Buxtehude-Bremervörde-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven route in the northwestern German state of Lower Saxony. Test approvals procedures for the train are expected to be conducted out later in the year, with public access expected to start by December 2017.
ILint is being developed by French manufacturers Alstom and features a motor that gets its fuel from a hydrogen tank and a fuel cell. The hydrogen which is stored in a reservoir large enough to power a 497-mile journey is converted into electricity by the fuel cells, propelling the train to travel at a speed of up to 87 miles per hour. Any energy that is not utilized immediately is stored in Lithium batteries attached to the train’s bottom.
The train’s only byproduct is steam, which is made carbon-neutral by the train’s fuel source. Hydrogen is already being created as a byproduct of the chemical and other industries. This hydrogen is usually burned, so using it to power trains places no additional burden on the environment.
The train would be truly revolutionary were it not for the fact that trains powered by electric sources are not inherently dirty. Their environmental impact is dependent on how the electricity they generate is used. Across the world, there are not many rails that are electrified, with a majority of the trains using diesel engines. Electrifying minor routes that have low passenger numbers might not be cost effective.
ILint is perfect for shorter, quieter stretches of the network that has not yet been electrified. Apart from Buxtehude to Cuxhaven where the train is being tried out for the first time, three German states have already signed letters of intent expressing an interest in adopting the model. The trains might soon be a fixture across many of Germany’s smaller lines.
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