Developments in Hydrail

Over the past 15 years, universities and companies around the world have carried out small scale demonstration projects of Hydrail technology, mainly as proof-of-concept exercises. But in the coming months, the first major introduction of hydrogen fuel cell-powered trains into passenger service will occur in Germany.

Where is Hydrail being launched?

Alstom Coradia iLINT hydrogen fuel cell train

Four German states – Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse – have collectively ordered 40 fuel cell-electric passenger trains from ALSTOM, headquartered in France. These new trains are based on ALSTOM’s popular Coradia LINT passenger train model, available in both diesel and electric variations. The new fuel cell-electric variation is called the Coradia iLint.

Interest in Hydrail is growing, and other regions throughout Europe, China and India could be next to host to major expansions.

Photo Credit: ALSTOM

How is hydrail in Germany being being built?

To build the Coradia iLint, ALSTOM selected Hydrogenics to supply the fuel cell technology. At the core of the system, the roof-mounted fuel cell power modules are manufactured at Hydrogenics headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario, and then shipped to Germany for integration into the final train assembly at ALSTOM’s competence centre for regional trains in Salzgitter. Under its agreement with the German states, ALSTOM will deliver the first trains, ready for revenue service, in 2018 and all 40 will be running on-track by 2020.

In March 2017, ALSTOM conducted successful tests of the world’s first Hydrail, which is 60% less noisy than a traditional diesel train and completely emission free. Design and testing have been advancing very well, and the timelines are expected to be met with confidence.

To learn more about Hydrail testing in Germany, visit the links below:

This hydrogen powered train emits only water
Alstom’s hydrogen train Coradia iLint first successful run at 80 km/h
Coradia iLint – A major breakthrough for tomorrow’s rail transport

When will Hydrail happen?

Commercial passenger Hydrail service is set to launch in 2018 in Germany. By 2020, at least 40 hydrogen fuel cell-electric trains will be running on tracks. Other transit authorities have expressed interest in Hydrail, including Metrolinx. It is expected that Hydrail will continue to expand, especially as demand for zero-emission, zero-carbon transportation and grid-scale energy storage solutions increases.

How will Hydrail change light rail and commuter rail?

Hydrail can enable fully electric rail service more quickly and at lower cost than the traditional, infrastructure-intensive approach. This means a portion of the funds that would otherwise be dedicated to building overhead electrification infrastructure can instead be invested to improve and further expand public transit and commuter rail services. In turn, this contributes to a cleaner, more effective transportation system in urban regions.

Running a Hydrail system is very similar to running conventional diesel-powered trains. In both cases, locomotives are refueled on a regular schedule, and railway corridors are maintained in a similar manner. However, with Hydrail, switchyards and maintenance areas would be much cleaner since no oily diesel emissions would accumulate on tracks and on the surrounding lands. The noise and pollutants emitted from large diesel combustion engines in locomotives would also be absent.