ith the global rail industry facing increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact, operators and governments are emphasising the importance of finding greener fuels and alternative propulsion methods to cut down on emissions. Electrification and battery power remain at the forefront of discussion around replacing diesel-powered locomotives, but many countries in Europe have highlighted the potential of hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) technology, which produces electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen in a chemical reaction, and leaves water as the only emission.

The introduction of hydrogen-powered trains on major rail networks is no longer a pipedream. French manufacturer Alstom’s revolutionary Coradia iLint has been a fixture in the headlines since its first appearance at InnoTrans 2016, with the train already running on several lines in Germany, and the company is now in discussions to bring it to other countries, including the US. Both France and the UK have outlined plans to introduce hydrogen-powered trains on their networks by 2022, with the latter testing a hydrogen train demonstrator, named HydroFLEX, on a mainline railway this year.

Recently, a study commissioned by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) and Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU) analysed the extent to which fuel cells and hydrogen technologies could be introduced within the European rail market. The study showed that some of the current hydrogen-powered rail cases in Europe highlight a positive total cost of ownership for fuel cells, while in others it could be the ‘most adequate zero-emission alternative’.

In numbers:


The current number of iLint trains expected to start service in Germany in the coming years


The distance a single iLint train can travel on a single tank of hydrogen (with a max speed of 140km/h)


The amount of CO2 emissions saved annually by a typical fleet of 15 iLint trains, compared to conventional diesel propulsion methods.

1 in 5

Newly purchased trains in Europe could be powered by hydrogen, according to the FCH JU and Shift2Rail report.


Of the European mainline network is still operating with diesel-powered trains.


The share of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions from transport in 2016.

18 of 28

EU member states are have supported an EU pledge to go carbon-neutral by 2050.

 In News

Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (‘BCRRE’) today announce that the UK’s first hydrogen train, HydroFLEX, will be tested on the mainline railway following a successful proof-of-concept. The HydroFLEX pilot involves the fitment of a hydrogen powerpack to an existing Class 319 train, which would eventually allow it to run on conventional electrified routes as well as independently. This results in a highly flexible train that can operate on different parts of Britain’s rail network.

Source: University of Birmingham

Hydrogen storage pressure vessel manufacturer NPROXX has developed an advanced system for mounting hydrogen tanks onto a new regional tank being built by a major German manufacturer. The NPROXX system involves fewer, bigger and more efficient pressure vessels, held in an advanced mounting structure. NPROXX has developed an advanced mounting system to hold these vessels in place on top of the train. Traditional roof-mounting systems either strap the vessels to the roof or embed them in a metal frame that itself holds them in place.

Source: gasworld

Romania could become the first country in Central and Eastern Europe to buy hydrogen-fueled trains for passenger rail transport, according to the Club Feroviar online publication quoted by Economica.net. Five such trains might be purchased to serve the new North Railway Station - Bucharest Airport line in the country’s capital city, a route that might be opened in 2020, the source said.

Source: Romania Insider

Alstom is hopeful of confirming an order before the end of this year for its Breeze hydrogen multiple-unit trains being developed in partnership with leasing company Eversholt Rail, suggesting that the first trains could enter service ‘as early as 2022’. Unveiling a scale model of the three-car HMU at the Railtex trade fair on May 14, Head of Business Development & Marketing for Alstom UK & Ireland Mike Muldoon said ‘the momentum continues to build around hydrogen trains in the UK

Source: Railway Gazette

 In quotes:

FCH JU executive director Bart Biebuyck:

“Hydrogen it is one of the best technologies to decarbonise transportation, providing an attractive alternative to many cities and regions struggling to combat air pollution. Various regions in Europe have shown interest in the potential of fuel cell and hydrogen technologies for trains, in particular where other electrification alternatives have proven unfeasible to reach the environmental and a zero-emission objectives set up for rail operations.”

S2R JU executive director Carlo Borghini:

“The analysis finds that the global FCH train market development activities are currently concentrated in Europe. This is encouraging as it puts Europe at the forefront of FCH train technology, which constitutes a significant potential for the European FCH industry. The rail system transformation initiated with the establishment of the Shift2Rail Programme, driven by sustainability, digitalization and automation, creates new market opportunities for the competitiveness of the rail industry globally”

UK Rail Minister Andrew Jones MP:

“Hydrogen train technology is an exciting innovation which has the potential to transform our railway, making journeys cleaner and greener by cutting CO2 emissions even further. We are working with industry to establish how hydrogen trains can play an important part in the future, delivering better services on rural and inter-urban routes,” said Andrew Jones MP, UK Rail Minister.

Alstom managing director in Germany and Austria:

“Our technology is ready for use. It represents an existing environment-friendly alternative for non- electrified or partially electrified lines and offers increased passenger comfort thanks to a significantly quieter train than a conventional diesel multiple unit."