Alstom SA’s first hydrogen-powered commuter trains are scheduled to debut in Germany, giving the technology a foothold in Europe.
According to Carmen Schwabl, managing director of rail operator LNVG, commercial operations will begin next March after a lengthy trial period on a 123-kilometer (76-mile) track in Lower Saxony, Germany. Alstom’s 14 Coradia iLint passenger trains will run on a regional line connecting Buxtehude, near Hamburg, and Cuxhaven, a beach resort.
Alstom has been supporting fuel cell trains as an alternative to carbon-emitting diesel engines for more than five years. In addition to the German project, the world’s second-largest rail equipment supplier received an order for a dual hydrogen-electric train from France’s national railroad earlier this month, as well as other contracts in Germany and Italy.
Siemens AG, a competitor, is also working on hydrogen trains, and the European market is expected to expand to tens of billions of dollars in the coming years as emissions regulations tighten. Although battery packs or power lines may be used to electrify rail travel and reduce emissions, depending on the route, this isn’t always a viable option.
Stronger regulations are likely to impact sectors ranging from transportation to energy production after European Union lawmakers reached an agreement this week to make the bloc’s aggressive climate targets legally binding. The region’s railways are only around 54% electrified on average, and state-owned railroads may face increased pressure to replace polluting engines.