Unlike the United States, rail travel in Europe is the first choice of many people. The Continent is crisscrossed with excellent rail networks that connect all major cities. The trains run on time. They are quiet and comfortable, and at the end of the journey you arrive downtown without needing to take an expenisive taxi ride from the airport. But many of them are powered by diesel engines, which fill the skies with particulate pollution as they speed along the tracks.
Last week at the InnoTrans trade show in Berlin, French train manufacturer Alstom unveiled the first ever passenger train powered completely by hydrogen. Alstom has been working on the technology for the train for the past two years and says it will go into service in Lower Saxony in December of 2017.
“Alstom is proud to launch a breakthrough innovation in the field of clean transportation which will complete its Coradia range of regional trains,” Alstom chairman and CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge, said in a statement. “It shows our ability to work in close collaboration with our customers and develop a train in only two years.”
Most locomotives in use today are powered by electric motors. The only question is, where does the electricity come from? Often, it is generated onboard by massive diesel engines. Other times, it is provided by a connection to overhead wires. Now there is a third option that eliminates the need for wires overhead and leaves no trail of diesel emissions in its wake.
Officially, the train will be caled the Coradia iLint, but it has already been nicknamed the hydrail. It carries a supply of hydrogen in tanks mounted on the roof and has a range of up to 800 kilometers (about 500 miles)
Once underway, the hydrail has a top speed of 87 mph. It is far quieter in operation than a train pulled by a diesel locomotive and is a step forward for Europe’s push to limit carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Others have experimented with hydrogen fuel cell power for cargo trains. The Coradia iLint is the first time hydrogen has been used exclusively to power a passenger train.
The hydrogen powered train is more expensive than a comparable diesel model, but concerns over climate change have sparked interest in the technology from other parts of Germany as well as the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway.
Source: Inhabitat Photo credit: Alstom