Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Hydrogen Powered Train Debuts in Germany with a Taste of the Future

1,000 Kilometres a Day on One Fill Up
Shipping News Feature
GERMANY – Germany has introduced the world's first hydrogen fuel cell train into its passenger service in Lower Saxony, as the industry looks to more sustainable and eco-friendly technologies to replace the current diesel trains. The Coradia iLint, built by Alstom in Salzgitter, Germany, is equipped with fuel cells which convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, eliminating pollutant emissions related to propulsion. Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Chairman and CEO of Alstom, commented:

"This is a revolution for Alstom and for the future of mobility. The world’s first hydrogen fuel cell train is entering passenger service and is ready for serial production. The Coradia iLint heralds a new era in emission-free rail transport. It is an innovation that results from French-German teamwork and exemplifies successful cross-border cooperation.”

Since September 17, the Coradia iLint trains have been in operation on a nearly 100 kilometre route running between Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervörde and Buxtehude, replacing the existing diesel trains on the Northern German route. The low-noise, zero-emission trains which can reach speeds of up to 140 km/h, will be fuelled at a mobile hydrogen filling station where the hydrogen in a gaseous form will be pumped into the trains from a 40-foot-high steel container next to the tracks at Bremervörde station. This will allow the train to ply the network for an entire day, equal to around 1,000 kilometres, on a single tank of hydrogen.

A stationary filling station on the premises of transport authority EVB is scheduled to go into operation in 2021, when Alstom will also deliver a further 14 Coradia iLint trains to the Local Transport Authority of Lower Saxony (LNVG) which purchased the trains last year for more than €81 million.

The German federal government has actively supported the development and testing of the new drive technology in Lower Saxony by providing funds from the National Innovation Programme for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology. Enak Ferlemann, Federal Government Commissioner for Rail Transport and Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, summerised:

“A world premiere in Germany. We are putting the first passenger train with fuel cell technology on the track. This is a strong sign for the mobility of the future. Hydrogen is a real, low-emission and efficient alternative to diesel. These trains can be operated cleanly and in an environmentally friendly way, especially on secondary lines where overhead lines are uneconomical or not available yet. He therefore support and fund this technology, in order to expand it.”

This latest advance is likely to have ramifications far beyond Lower Saxony. Many people feel hydrogen power is being resisted by both fuel suppliers and governments, both which fear loss of revenue. Technology, like nature, often finds a way and the gas has both advantages, and some drawbacks, particularly its flammability, compared to electricity and other ‘acceptable’ alternative fuels.

With hydrogen powered trucks already being tested by several of the major manufacturers, the methods to produce the gas cheaply and in quantity are already in the spotlight, despite some like Tesla boss Elon Musk decrying its suitability and many feel that this time we are really looking at the fuel of the future.