First Hydrogen Train in World 2022

First Hydrogen Train in World 2022

First Hydrogen Train in World 2022: Germany has inaugurated a railway line powered entirely by hydrogen, a “world premiere” and a significant step forward for green train transport despite nagging supply challenges.

A fleet of 14 trains provided by French industrial giant Alstom to the German state of Lower Saxony has replaced diesel locomotives on the 100km (60 miles) of track connecting the cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude near Hamburg.

“We are very proud to put this technology into operation together with our strong partners as a world premiere,” Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge said in a statement on Wednesday.

Hydrogen trains have become a promising way to decarbonise the rail sector and replace climate-warming diesel, which still powers 20 percent of journeys in Germany.

Billed as a “zero emission” mode of transport, the trains mix hydrogen on board with oxygen present in the ambient air, thanks to a fuel cell installed in the roof. This produces the electricity needed to pull the train.

Regional rail operator LNVG said the fleet, which cost 93 million euros ($93m), would prevent 4,400 tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere each year.

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The World’s First Hydrogen Trains Started Passenger Service in Germany. The push to move away from combustion engines and toward electric vehicles is getting stronger, with US states and multiple countries banning the sale of gas cars after a certain date, providing tax incentives to go electric, or both. But personal vehicles are just one  part of the equation. Public transit will need to be greened as well. Germany has taken a step toward this imperative by getting the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains up and running.

Testing of Hydrogen Train

Testing of the trains started four years ago, and their initial implementation date was meant to be in 2021. The pandemic squashed that timeline, but late last month Alstom, the French company making the trains, announced the start of passenger service.

Five Coradia iLint trains started carrying passengers in August, and nine more will replace the diesel trains currently running on a route in Bremervörde, Lower Saxony by the end of this year.

The only byproducts from the trains’ operation are steam and water; any heat created is used to help power their heating and air conditioning systems. They have a range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), meaning they can run on a single tank of hydrogen for a full day. Their maximum speed is 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour), but their average speeds are lower than this.

Source of Power

Hydrogen is a promising but complicated source of power. Its energy density is almost three times that of gasoline on a mass basis, but on a volume basis it’s far less dense, meaning it needs to be compressed to get more energy from the same volume. 1 kilogram of hydrogen fuel can power a train for the same amount of time and distance as around 4.5 kilos of diesel.


While hydrogen fuel itself burns clean, it’s really only as green as the electricity generation source used to produce it. The method currently used to generate most hydrogen is natural gas reforming, which does emit CO2.

Hydrogen Filling Station

A hydrogen filling station for the trains is being run by German chemical company Linde. It has 64 high-pressure storage tanks, 6 hydrogen compressors, and 2 fuel pumps. The refueling process gives hydrogen a major advantage over battery-powered transport—namely, it’s fast, just like pumping gas or diesel into a tank. Though the Coradia iLint runs primarily on hydrogen from fuel cells, it also has lithium-ion batteries on board to store extra energy.

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Just like electric vehicles are quieter than gas cars (for better and for worse), the hydrogen trains are reportedly much quieter than their combustion-engine counterparts.

Given that there are more than 4,000 diesel-powered trains running in Germany alone, converting just 14 of them to hydrogen seems like a drop in the bucket. It’s a start, though, and there are plans for the trains to expand to other parts of Germany and Europe: Frankfurt has ordered 27 trains for its metropolitan area, France intends to deploy 12, and the northern Lombardy region of Italy is starting with 6.

Run for its Cash

Designed in the southern French town of Tarbes and assembled in Salzgitter in central Germany, Alstom’s trains – called Coradia iLint – are trailblazers in the sector.

The project created jobs for up to 80 employees in the two countries, according to Alstom.

Commercial trials have been carried out since 2018 on the line with two hydrogen trains but now the entire fleet is adopting the groundbreaking technology.

The French group has inked four contracts for several dozen trains between Germany, France and Italy, with no sign of demand waning.

In Germany alone “between 2,500 and 3,000 diesel trains could be replaced by hydrogen models”, Stefan Schrank, project manager at Alstom, told the AFP news agency.

“By 2035, around 15 to 20 percent of the regional European market could run on hydrogen,” according to Alexandre Charpentier, a rail expert at consultancy Roland Berger.

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Hydrogen trains are particularly attractive on short regional lines where the cost of a transition to electric outstrips the profitability of the route.

Currently, about one out of two regional trains in Europe runs on diesel. But Alstom’s competitors are ready to give it a run for its money.

German behemoth Siemens unveiled a prototype hydrogen train with national rail company Deutsche Bahn in May, with a view to a rollout in 2024.

But, despite the attractive prospects, “there are real barriers” to a big expansion with hydrogen, Charpentier said.

For starters, trains are not the only means of transport hungry for the fuel.

The entire sector, whether it be road vehicles or aircraft, not to mention heavy industry such as steel and chemicals, is eyeing hydrogen to slash CO2 emissions.

Ambitious plan

Although Germany announced in 2020 an ambitious seven-billion-euro ($7bn) plan to become a leader in hydrogen technologies within a decade, the infrastructure is still lacking in Europe’s top economy.

It is a problem seen across the continent, where colossal investment would be needed for a real shift to hydrogen.

“For this reason, we do not foresee a 100-percent replacement of diesel trains with hydrogen,” Charpentier said.

Furthermore, hydrogen is not necessarily carbon-free: only “green hydrogen”, produced using renewable energy, is considered sustainable by experts.

Other, more common manufacturing methods exist, but they emit greenhouse gases because they are made from fossil fuels.

The Lower Saxony line will in the beginning have to use a hydrogen by-product of certain industries such as the chemical sector.

The French research institute IFP specialising in energy issues says that hydrogen is currently “95 percent derived from the transformation of fossil fuels, almost half of which come from natural gas”

Europe’s enduring reliance on gas from Russia amid massive tensions over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine poses major challenges for the development of hydrogen in rail transport.

“Political leaders will have to decide which sector to prioritise when determining what the production of hydrogen will or won’t go to,” Charpentier said.

Germany will also have to import massively to meet its needs. Partnerships have recently been signed with India and Morocco, and Chancellor Olaf Scholz sealed a green hydrogen deal with Canada on a visit this week, laying a path for a transatlantic supply chain.


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