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Germany Has the World's First Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Train

Not all groundbreaking changes are about speed.
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Alstom

When it comes to rail innovations, it’s usually the fastest, longest and most expensive new connections or rolling stock that grab people’s attention. Next year, however, Germany will buck that trend with something that’s both ground-breaking and singularly modest. German rail’s most innovative project for 2017 won’t go especially fast, and you’ve probably never heard of the cities it will link. It will still revolutionize rail travel, quite possibly across the world, with one dramatic change. In December 2017, Germany will launch the first ever passenger rail service powered by hydrogen.

Unveiled by French manufacturers Alstom this month, the new Coradia iLint will feature a motor that gains its power from a hydrogen tank and a fuel cell. Stored in a tank large enough to fuel a 497-mile journey, the hydrogen’s chemical energy will be converted into electricity by the fuel cell, propelling the train at up to 87 miles per hour. Any energy not used immediately is stored in Lithium batteries attached to the car bottom. Producing nothing but steam as a by-product, the motor will run far more quietly and cleanly than a diesel engine. What’s more, the train’s new fuel source will effectively make it carbon-neutral, albeit in a roundabout sort of way.