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HYDROGEN FUEL CELL Hydrogen fuel cell-powered train takes to the rails in Austria

Author / Editor: Luke James / Johanna Erbacher

Austrian rail passengers are set to take part in a trial of a hydrogen fuel cell train. If it’s successful, the rollout of this technology could well change the way that public transport systems are powered and operate in the future.

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The hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint train.
The hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint train.
(Source: Alstom)

Following two years’ worth of successful trials in Germany covering more than 180,000km, Austrian Federal Railways (Austrian ÖBB) has launched a three-month passenger trial of a hydrogen-powered train in a bid to explore the technological alternatives available to reduce carbon emissions produced by public mass transport.

The train, known as the Coradia iLint, was developed by French rail giant Alstom and it is the first one in the world to run on a hydrogen fuel cell, which it uses to generate electrical energy for propulsion up to 140km/h. If the trial is successful, the train may be used to replace Austrian ÖBB’s existing stock of diesel-powered trains.

A clean and innovative railcar solution

According to Alstom, the Coradia iLint is designed specifically for use on non-electrified rail lines, is 100 percent emissions-free and features a number of innovations such as clean energy conversion, flexible energy storage in batteries, and intelligent motive power management. These enable clean, sustainable, high-performance levels of train operation.

“With its use in regular passenger operations for ÖBB, our innovation train Coradia iLint has reached the next milestone,” said Dr. Jörg Nikutta, Alstom’s CEO in Germany and Austria, at the launch event in Vienna.

An alternative to diesel trains

It’s immediately obvious just how promising a train such as the Coradia iLint could be if passenger trials are successful. The emission-free drive technology offers a climate-friendly alternative to dirty conventional diesel trains, particularly on non-electrified lines where fuel must be burned for propulsion. “I am particularly pleased that ÖBB, a strong and long-term partner in the European mobility market, is convinced of our technology and its advantages,” Nikutta added.

The Coradia iLint is just one of a small (but growing by the day…) selection of hydrogen-powered transportation methods. In London, for example, hydrogen-powered buses are currently operating on the roads while major car manufacturers including Honda and Toyota have both experimented with hydrogen fuel cells.

Overall, Alstom sold 41 of the Coradia iLink hydrogen fuel cell-powered trains in Germany, and several other countries have expressed their interest in the technology. Earlier this year, Alstom also carried out tests in the Netherlands.

At present, Alstom is also working with Eversholt Rail, a UK-based firm, on the development of a hydrogen train design known as Breeze and jointly invested £1 million in the project in summer. It’s said that this train will be capable of operating on the UK rail network.

Andreas Matthä, CEO of ÖBB-Holding AG, said “We clearly see ourselves as pioneers in testing hydrogen technology on rail. As the largest climate protection company in Austria, we are actively shaping the mobility of the future with technological alternatives….”

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