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World’s First Hydrogen Trains Launch in Germany

The world’s first hydrogen-powered trains have begun running in Germany. They began carrying passengers Monday in Germany’s northern Lower Saxony state. The new trains will run 100-kilometer trips and can travel up to 140 kilometers an hour.
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A French railroad company called Alstom built the two trains. Teams in Germany and France collaborated on the project, which was supported by the German government. The new train model, called the Coradia iLint, signals the beginning of efforts in Germany and other nations to move away from pollution-producing diesel trains.

Hydrogen trains vs. diesel trains

The Coradia iLint is designed to run on non-electrified train lines with low levels of noise. It uses a process that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electrical power. If the system produces more energy than the train needs at that time, it can store the extra energy in batteries. The only emissions are water and steam.

A single tank of hydrogen can run a Coradia iLint train for about 1,000 kilometers. This is very similar to the distance a diesel-powered train can run on with a single tank.

Hydrogen-powered trains cost more than diesel trains to build. But Alstom officials say the operating costs are much lower. The company plans to provide another 14 Coradia iLint trains to Lower Saxony by 2021.
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The head of railroad operations in the area, Carmen Schwabl, praised replacing diesel trains with hydrogen. She said the move was an important first step in using clean-burning technologies to reach climate protection goals.

Schwabl added: “We also do this because about 120 diesel trainsets in our vehicle pool will reach the end of their lifetime within the next 30 years, meaning we will have to replace them. The experience gained with this project helps us find a sustainable and practical solution.”

Officials say the area’s many wind turbines will produce part of the energy to create the hydrogen to power the trains.

Alstom says several other European countries have also expressed interest in developing hydrogen train systems. France has already said it wants its first hydrogen train to be operating by 2022.

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