At last, the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains have made their global debut in the northern countryside of Germany. As of Monday, two Coradia iLint locomotives have been transporting passengers back and forth to the towns of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude, just west of Hamburg. The efficient trains were produced by French transportation engineers at Alstom, the same manufacturers who amazed the world in the early 1980s with the world-record-setting bullet train.

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While the TGV captured many people’s attention as the fastest locomotive in production, its true feat was providing a solution to the 1973 oil crisis in France by featuring an electric — not gas — fueled transmission. Nearly four decades later, Alstom has come to the rescue again as European cities continue to struggle with pollution. Replacing diesel powered engines that are stagnating Germany’s fight for the green is the first push.

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Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge inaugurated the pair of novel trains at an unveiling ceremony in Bremervoerde, where the trains will undergo routine hydrogen refueling. The company leader said, “The world’s first hydrogen train is entering into commercial service and is ready for serial production.” The bright blue Coradia iLint trains currently operate on a 62-mile (100-kilometer) course. However, in equal capacity to their gas-gulping counterparts, the hydrogen-powered vehicles can travel the span of 600 miles (1000 kilometers) on one tank of hydrogen.

The trains rely on fuel cells that can produce electricity from a combined mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. The models are extremely efficient in the conversion — excess electricity can be siphoned into ion lithium batteries stored on board. The only byproducts emitted by this process are steam and water.

Many German states have expressed interest in adopting the models to their own transportation lines. The company announced it will be delivering a set of 14 trains to the Lower Saxony region of the nation by 2021. While the zero-emission alternatives are attractive because of their quieter, eco-friendly nature and ability to run without electrified railways, they are not without a high initial price. Stefan Schrank, Alstom’s project manager, said, “Sure, buying a hydrogen train is somewhat more expensive than a diesel train, but it is cheaper to run.”

It’s a price many countries are willing to pay for cleaner air. France plans to rail its first hydrogen train by 2022, with the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Canada eager to follow suit.

+ Alstom

Via The Guardian

Image via René Frampe / Alstom