Alstom reveals zero-emission regional train

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Photo: Alstom/Michael Wittwer.

Alstom has presented its new hydrogen-powered regional train, the iLint, at the InnoTrans trade fair in Berlin.

Alstom is one of the first manufacturers in the world to produce a passenger train using the hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The train, of which two prototypes have been built so far, uses an electrical traction drive which draws on energy generated by a hydrogen fuel cell. Electrical energy is produced by exposing hydrogen, which is stored in a fuel tank on board, to oxygen. The energy is then stored in lithium ion batteries, which have been supplied by Akasol.

Alstom has said the iLint would have comparable acceleration and braking performance to its diesel counterpart and the same top speed, 140 km/h.

The train is CO2-emission-free, claims Alstom, producing only steam and condensed water. It provides an alternative, and potentially cheaper, solution to electrification.

In 2014, Alstom signed a letter of intent with the leaders of Germany’s Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg regions and the public transport authorities of Hesse to develop a zero-emission train using hydrogen fuel cells.

Alstom chairman and chief executive Henri Poupart-Lafarge said the project would not have been possible without the support of these regions.

Speaking during the Alstom press conference at InnoTrans, he said: “This fuel cell platform is about investment in optimisation rather than in changing infrastructure. With standards on emissions set to become ever more stringent in the coming years, rail networks will face a significant investment challenge. So we, as a rolling stock provider, thought about this and came up with the idea for a zero-emission train that costs cheaper than electrification.

“The Coradia iLint is a nice story also because as well as developing this train at different Alstom sites and involving different sectors within the group, partners in Germany were involved too.”

Adding: “One advantage of fuel cell technology for rail compared to the road is that trains run the same routes, so it’s much easier to build the charging infrastructure.

“The iLint looks the same as a regular train from the outside, feels the same on the inside.”

This unveiling in Berlin deflects attention away from other, less uplifting, news in the spotlight right now in France.

Alstom intends to close one of its manufacturing plants in France. This September 13, the company announced the end of the line for its Belfort train building plant.

Reasons for the decision – no locomotives on Alstom’s order books in France for over a decade, plus production of TGV motors is uncertain beyond 2018.

If the closure does take place, the majority of the 480-strong workforce will be transferred to Alstom’s Reichshoffen site in Bas-Rhin, Germany, by 2018.

Additional reporting and photos by Lesley Brown

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