Hydrogen-powered trains make their debut

Hydrogen-powered trains make their debut

- in Science
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A pair of trains that are among the first in the world to run on hydrogen entered service in Germany this week, offering an environmentally friendly alternative to diesel locomotives that belch harmful exhaust into the atmosphere.

The Coradia iLint trains are running along a 62-mile corridor between towns in Lower Saxony in the northern part of the country. They have fuel cells that generate electricity via chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen and batteries that store excess electricity until it’s needed, according to Alstom, the French company that made the trains.

The bright blue trains are considered zero-emissions vehicles because they release only water and steam. Diesel-powered trains, like the ones the new trains replace, emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, as well as particulates that can cause a range of health problems.

Image: Coradia iLint train
The Coradia iLint train built by the French company Alstom, has fuel cells that generate electricity from chemical reactions between hydrogen gas and oxygen.Rene Frampe

The trains can reach speeds of up to 87 miles per hour and travel up to 600 miles without refueling — about equivalent to the range of diesel trains, said Shawn Litster, a professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The hydrogen used to power the trains will be pumped aboard from a 40-foot-high steel container erected at one of the stations along the route.

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