From the first train to carry goods across Canada to the creation of a railroad system that allows people to travel across the city quickly, the train has done it yet again — they have embraced the modern green energy movement.

Alstom, a French manufacturer, has introduced the hydrogen powered passenger rail train known as the Coradia iLint. The train will launch in December 2017 in Germany and run a 60 km link from Buxtehude, located just outside of Hamburg, to Cuxhaven.  The project is intended to provide a green alternative to remote areas where electrified trains would be difficult to put in.

How does this work? Hydrogen is stored at the top of the train and is combined with oxygen to produce electricity. That energy is then converted using fuel cells, which charges batteries stored below the train. This creates electricity to run the train. Additionally, extra unused energy is stored in lithium batteries and allows the train to be more efficient because it doesn’t have any waste energy. The train will carry up to 300 passengers and can run at 140 miles per hour for an 800 km stretch.

The train was created by French, German, and Canadian technologies. The Canadian company, Hydrogenics, provided the fuel cell that would run the train. Hydrogenics is invested in creating hydrogen fuel cells that could help run clean energy through a variety of transportation options including electric vehicles. The company is also invested in fuel cell installations for freestanding electrical power plants.

The new hydro train is an alternative to electrified trains, another popular green energy option in transit where electrification is hard to reach. The train is considered carbon neutral because it takes hydrogen already in the environment and re-uses it. Though electrification doesn’t have any carbon output, hydrogen fuel cells are able to provide more flexibility in hard-to-reach places because they don’t require a lot of infrastructure to build, a common issue on train routes. The hydro train is a welcome example of a type of transportation that can be adopted in Canada to cut costs from new carbon tax measures that will be implemented under the liberal government next year.

Hydrogen fuel cells are the way of the future and provide a more productive use of the energy potential of the chemical. Hydro trains are ground-breaking and provide alternatives to diesel run trains, which are still the main form of transport for CN Rail in Canada. Transportation can be green and the Coradia iLint is the way of the future for trains.


Kaeleigh Phillips is Women's Post sustainability coordinator. She specializes in writing about issues relating to the environment, including renewable energy, cycling, and vegan recipes!

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