It seems like something out of a science fiction movie, but a nearly silent train that glides along its tracks emitting nothing but water is a reality. In March, Germany conducted successful tests of the world’s first “Hydrail,” which is a hydrogen-powered, zero-emission train.
The Hydrail is 60% less noisy than a traditional diesel train and it is completely emission free. The only sound it gives off comes from the wheels and air resistance.
The new train uses the same basic equipment as a diesel train but is fueled by hydrogen instead of diesel fuel. Large fuel cells located on top of the train combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity, which is then transferred to lithium ion batteries. Energy that isn’t immediately needed can be stored for later use. The only emissions from fuel cells are steam and water.
Each two-car train requires a fuel cell and a 200-pound tank of hydrogen to supply it. The oxygen is supplied from the air. The train can travel up to 500 miles per day on a tank of hydrogen, carrying 300 passengers at a time. The Hydrail is ideally suited for the short stretches of the European rail network that have not been converted to electric rails.
The train is being developed by Alstom, the French industrial company. Five federal states in Germany have signed a letter of intent to purchase a total of 60 trains from the French firm. The first operational trains will roll out by the beginning of 2018 and will provide a green alternative to the 4,000 diesel trains currently running in Germany. According to the EU, about 20% of Europe’s rail traffic runs on diesel.
Photo, posted September 21, 2016, courtesy of Frank Paukstat via Flickr.