First hydrogen filling station to power emissions-free trains

Rail manufacturer Alstom has joined with gases and engineering company Linde to build and operate a hydrogen filling station to support hydrogen trains on the Elbe-Weser network, in the German state of Lower Saxony.

The hydrogen filling station will provide the fuel for the operation of Alstom’s Coradia iLint hydrogen-powered trains, which completed a test phase in February.

While operating passenger services, the trains were able to replace diesel-powered services, and only emit water vapour and condensation.

Completion of the filling station is expected in mid-2021 and 14 hydrogen trains will be utilising the facility by the beginning of 2022.

Once filled at the station, the trains will be able to run for up to 1,000km, meaning they only require one tank filling. The station has room for expansion to produce hydrogen on site through electrolysis and regenerative electricity.

Hydrogen is a key fuel in the decarbonisation of rail where electrification is not possible, facilities such as the filling station will enable emissions-free transport and support Germany’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.

“The construction of the hydrogen filling station in Bremervörde will create the basis for the series operation of our emission-free hydrogen trains in the Weser-Elbe network,” said Jörg Nikutta, managing director Germany and Austria of Alstom.

Mathias Kranz, responsible at Linde for the onsite and bulk business in Germany, said the switch to hydrogen would improve environmental outcomes.

“The introduction of hydrogen as a fuel for trains will significantly reduce the burden on the environment, as one kilogram of hydrogen replaces approximately 4.5 litres of diesel fuel.”

According to Andreas Wagner, head of local rail passenger transport and signatory of the Elbe-Weser Railways and Transport Company, the introduction of hydrogen trains has promoted interest in rail from passengers and motivated drivers.

“Our passengers were very curious about the trains and their technology from the very beginning. In addition to the very low noise level, the hydrogen train impresses with its zero emissions, especially in times of climate change. For our train drivers, the operation of iLint was a very special motivation,” he said.

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Partnership to produce hydrogen-powered trains in UK

UK rollingstock owner Eversholt Rail will join forces with Alstom to produce a new class of hydrogen-powered trains to decarbonise the UK rail sector.

With a combined investment of £1 million ($1.78m), the new trains nicknamed Breeze will be re-engineered versions of Eversholt’s Class 321 fleet, which have been in use on the UK rail network since 1988.

The hydrogen powered trains will be built at Alstom’s Widnes Transport Technology Centre near Liverpool and are expected to create 200 jobs in the North West region of England. Alstom will use its hydrogen train technology that has been in service in the Coradia iLint trains.

Nick Crossfield, managing director of Alstom UK and Ireland, said that the new trains would support the UK government’s initiatives in hydrogen power.

“It’s time to jump-start the UK hydrogen revolution. With the government looking to invest in green technologies, Alstom and Eversholt Rail have deepened our already extensive commitment to this job-creating technology with a further million-pound investment.”

The partnership expects the trains to fill the gap in zero-emission services where electrification of lines is not possible. This would be particularly the case on regional rail services.

Alstom’s hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint trains have run trial passenger services in Germany and the Netherlands, and Alstom recently signed a deal to prepare for the introduction of hydrogen trains in Italy.

CEO of Eversholt Rail Mary Kenny said the hydrogen trains extended a commitment to innovation.

“Eversholt Rail has a proud record of innovation in key rolling stock technologies and this further investment in the Breeze programme demonstrates our commitment to providing timely, cost-effective solutions to the identified need for hydrogen trains to support the decarbonisation of the UK railway.”

The UK government aims to phase out diesel-only trains by 2040 and Alstom and Eversholt rail expect to have the first Breeze trains in service by 2024.

Trial of hydrogen-powered trains in passenger service complete

The world-first trial of two hydrogen fuel-cell trains in passenger service has been successfully completed.

The two Alstom Coradia iLint trains have passed 530 days and 180,000km of operation for LNVG, the transport operator for the German state of Lower Saxony.

With the trial now completed, 14 Coradia iLint trains will enter service in 2022, replacing the existing diesel multiple units.

Alstom will manufacture the trains and maintain them at its site in Salzgitter. Gases and engineering company Linde will construct and operate a hydrogen filling station near Bremervoerde station.

Jörg Nikutta, managing director for Germany and Austria of Alstom Transport Deutschland said that the new trains are a step forward for emissions-free transport.

“Our two pre-series trains of the Coradia iLint have proven over the past year and a half that fuel cell technology can be used successfully in daily passenger service. This makes us an important driving force on the way to emission-free and sustainable mobility in rail transport,” he said, noting that data from the trial will inform the development of hydrogen propulsion technology.

Lower Saxony’s Minister of Economics and Transport Bernd Althusmann said that the completed trial has a significant beyond transport.

“Alstom has made hydrogen history here. The project is of a great importance to industrial policy that goes far beyond Germany. Here, we are witnessing the first competitive product of hydrogen mobility at industrial level.”

When used, hydrogen produces no emissions, apart from water, and the hydrogen-powered propulsion system also reduces the amount of noise the trains produce. The Coradia iLint has been designed to replace diesel units on non-electrified lines. Enak Ferlemann, parliamentary state secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, said that this was where hydrogen could play a big role.

“Hydrogen is a real low-emission and efficient alternative to diesel. Especially on secondary lines where overhead lines are uneconomical or not yet available, these trains can travel cleanly and in an environmentally friendly way. We would like to see more such applications.”

Tests of hydrogen-powered train underway in Netherlands

The Netherlands has become the second country in Europe to run a hydrogen fuel cell train from rollingstock manufacturer Alstom.

The Coradia iLint will travel on 65km of track between Groningen and Leeuwarden, and will be the next location, after the Buxtehude–Bremervörde–Bremerhaven–Cuxhaven line in Germany, where hydrogen-powered trains will operate.

Ten days of testing have already been conducted in the Netherlands, and the trial follows the agreement signed last October between Alstom, the Province of Groningen, operator Arrive, Dutch railway infrastructure manager ProRail, and energy company Engie.

Hydrogen-powered trains are currently travelling at night without passengers at speeds of up to 140km/h.

The hydrogen supplied to the trains is ‘green’ hydrogen, produced with renewable energy supplied by Engie.

“The tests in the Netherlands demonstrate how our hydrogen train is mature in terms of availability and reliability, providing the same performance as traditional regional trains, but with the benefit of low noise and zero emissions. It is also easy to integrate in an existing fleet and is compliant with all safety regulations,” said Bernard Belvaux, managing director, Alstom Benelux.

Running on hydrogen means that the trains’ only emissions are water. The fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen into electricity to drive the train and the Coradia iLint is designed for sections of track that, lacking electrification, have had to be operated by diesel-powered trains. With equivalent performance as a traditionally-powered train set, the vehicle has a range of roughly 1,000km.

“The Coradia iLint hydrogen train is a reliable emission-free train ready to help transport us to a carbon-neutral Europe,” said Belvaux.