The world’s first hydrogen fuel cell passenger train, Alstom’s Coradia iLint, has been approved for public use in Germany and will enter service at the end of summer.
It will be the first machine of its kind to be used on commercial routes, and meets a growing need to replace ageing internal combustion trains with zero-emission alternatives without the associated costs of overhead wires or electrified third rails.
“With the approval of the German Railway Office (EBA), we are sending the first passenger train with fuel cell technology onto the tracks. This is a strong sign of the mobility of the future,” said Enak Ferlemann, the German Federal Government’s delegate for rail transportation.
“Hydrogen is a true low-emission and efficient alternative to diesel. Especially on secondary lines, where overhead lines are uneconomic or not yet available, these trains are a clean and environmentally friendly option. That is why we support and promote the technology, in order to bring it to the surface.”
Designed in Saltzgitter, Germany and Tarbes, France, the Coradia iLint is a small two-car multiple unit with a top speed of 140km/h, a maximum range per charge of 800km, and a 300-passenger capacity. It is based on the Coradia Lint 54, a diesel articulated unit already in use, and is understood to have comparable acceleration and braking characteristics.
Both cars in the articulated train contain passenger seating, hydrogen tanks, a proton exchange membrane fuel cell, a converter and a traction motor. A fuel cell converts hydrogen into electricity (to drive the motor) and water, which is the only notable emission.
“This approval is a major milestone for the Coradia iLint and a decisive step towards clean and future-oriented mobility. Alstom is immensely proud of this hydrogen-powered regional train, a breakthrough in emission-free mobility, and the fact that it will now go into regular passenger operation,” said Wolfram Schwab, Alstom Vice President of R&D and Innovation.
The trains will operate between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude – a route that takes around 70 minutes to complete – from December 2021. Two prototypes are expected to go into pilot service later this year.
Alstom has previously indicated that it will introduce hydrogen fuel cell train technology to the United Kingdom, partnering with Eversholt Rail to convert Class 321 electric multiple units at the facility in Widnes, Cheshire.