This is Alstom’s new zero-carbon train, the Coradia iLint. It is powered by hydrogen fuel cell, and designed to replace diesel trains on regional routes.
For many rail routes, the path to lower climate emissions lies with electrification and renewable energy. But on smaller routes it won’t be cost effective to electrify, and that’s where hydrogen trains might fit in. Alstom’s train is based on their existing diesel model, but its only emissions will be steam and condensed water. That’s good news for air pollution as well as the climate. As an added bonus, it’s really quiet.
It looks like Alstom, a French company, will be the first to get a hydrogen train out onto the commercial network, but the technology itself isn’t entirely new. The first prototypes were built in Japan ten years ago, and there are research projects in Britain, South Africa, Denmark and a number of others. Japan and the US have also experimented with hybrid locomotives. The first hydrogen tram was unveiled in China in 2015. The hydrogen has to come from somewhere of course, and the infrastructure to provide it isn’t built yet. Nevertheless, we can expect to hear more about hydrogen fuel cells in the coming years.