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22 May 2019, 13:18
Julian Wettengel

World’s largest passenger fuel cell train fleet planned in Germany

French manufacturer Alstom plans to deliver 27 hydrogen fuel cell trains to subsidiary fahma of regional public transport provider RMV in the central German state of Hesse by 2022, creating the world’s largest fuel cell train fleet in passenger transport, the companies said in a press release. “On Hesse’s train tracks you can still find many diesel vehicles today as overhead lines are missing. The fuel cell drive is therefore an alternative to expensive electrification that can be implemented quickly,” said Hesse’s transport minister Tarek Al-Wazir. Germany’s federal government will support this “lighthouse project” by covering 40 percent of the additional vehicle costs incurred in comparison to diesel vehicles, said Enak Ferlemann, parliamentary state secretary in the transport ministry. The total order value amounts to around 500 million euros.

Hesse is the second German state to put Alstom’s fuel cell trains on the tracks. In September 2018, the world's first hydrogen fuel cell train, by French Alstom, started commercial operation in the German state of Lower Saxony. The Coradia iLint is equipped with fuel cells that convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, eliminating pollutant emissions related to propulsion. The trains are as silent as a suburban train and are locally emission-free as they only emit steam and liquid water into the environment, says Alstom. Producing hydrogen to fuel the trains still requires a large amount of energy, which until now mostly comes from fossil sources. Using renewable electricity to produce clean hydrogen from water through electrolysis – the power-to-gas (PtG) concept – could provide carbon-neutral fuel for heating and transport, and pave the way for large-scale seasonal energy storage. Many experts believe the government must now scale up the technology to make it available – and affordable – in time to meet Germany’s climate targets.

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