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HOW IT'S MADE – Next stop, hydrogen

As announced in Berlin at the 2016 Innotrans trade show, the Coradia iLint 54, the world’s first hydrogen powered train, began operating in the German state of Lower Saxony in mid September. The new model is based on the Coradia platform, which Alstom has developed and perfected over the past thirty years.

On 17 September 2018, the world’s first hydrogen powered train went into commercial operation in Germany on the regional Bux tehude Bremer vörde Bremerhaven Cuxhaven line in Lower Saxony, over a distance of about 100 km (60 miles).

Expertise and innovation
The Coradia range now includes seven different models, all based on the same platform that Alstom has been developing over the past thirty years. With its many coach configurations that meet a range of capacities, Coradia is currently one of the most popular trains circulating on Europe’s regional railway lines. In keeping with the goal to facilitate the transition towards low carbon transportation systems, Alstom has already pioneered a number of sustainable mobility solutions.

The commissioning of the Coradia iLint now exemplifies its commitment to provide innovative, environment friendly solutions.

Striving for sustainable mobility
To address the challenge of reducing the carbon footprint of interurban railway transportation means, Alstom worked with Hydrogenics, an American company, to develop a hydrogen cell powered electric engine. The goal was to reduce the carbon footprint on regional lines without sacrificing high performance, and the figures speak for themselves: the Coradia iLint can reach speeds of 140 km/h over a total distance of 600-800 km for a full hydrogen tank. This zero emission train with a capacity of up to 300 passengers is fairly quiet, and emits only steam and condensed water. Coradia iLint stands out for its combination of innovative features: clean energy conversion, f lexible energy storage in batteries, and smart management of traction and available energy.

Designed specifically for non electrified railway lines, it provides both clean, sustainable operation and excellent performance.

Il video di presentazione del Coradia iLint di Alstom

Video of Il video di presentazione del Coradia iLint di Alstom

Coradia iLint 54, the world’s first hydrogen powered train (March 2017- Testing)

Harnessing energy storage
Designed by Alstom’s teams in Salzgitter (Germany), which is a centre of excellence for regional trains, and in Tarbes (France), another centre of excellence for traction systems, the Cordadia iLint incorporates a hydrogen fuel cell into the roof of the train. The constituent cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to generate enough electricity to move the train. Lithium batteries at the back of the train recover and store the excess energy.

The Coradia iLint is equipped with X-STORE Type 4 high pressure cylinders that were designed by Xperion, a Hexagon Composites Company, so the train benefits from energy storage technology that is dedicated to the automotive, transportation system and maritime industries.

Coradia iLint project development timeline
The cylinders are made entirely of carbon fibre. Each lowweight cylinder has a storage capacity of 8.4 kg of hydrogen and fits perfectly into the train roof. The cylinders are corrosion proof, so they have a longer service life and provide optimum safety in use.

The X-STORE Type 4 cylinders used are produced by Xperion (a Hexagon subsidiary). These carbon-fibre cylinders are filament wound around a polymer liner (thermoplastic) and can resist a maximum pressure of about 350 bar (35 MPa, 50,000 psi). Filament winding is a rapidly growing sector. In recent news, Coriolis bought out MFTech (September 2018) and Plastic Omnium acquired Optimum CPV (composite pressure vessels), Composicad software for filament winding), and the CPV software for fibre placement.

H2 train and bus tanks train rack

X-STORE® hydrogen high-pressure train tanks produced by Hexagon xperion (a Hexagon subsidiary)

A project supported by Germany and Europe
The project has the support of the German Ministry of Economy and Transportation. The German goverernment financed the development of Alstom’s Coradia iLint under the National Innovation Programme for hydrogen and fuel cell technology (NIP).

Other countries besides Germany have also indicated their interest in hydrogen powered railway transportation, including Great Britain, Denmark, Italy and France.

The European railway network
The French and German networks (30,000 km in France and 33,448 km in Germany) account for 33% of the entire European railway network. In Europe, passenger transport accounts for 82% of all rail transport; 54.6% of the European network is electrified, and the rest depends on diesel fuel. For historical reasons, several electrification standards have become established in Europe, and so the use of hydrogen opens up some significant perspectives for:

  • a clean recourse to diesel pollution, in particular in terms of the release of microparticles, and also of sound pollution
  • the interoperability of trains as a function of individual national networks.

A global trend
Japan (whose Toyota brand has been marketing one of the first hydrogen powered vehicles, the Miraï, since 2015) is also in the running: the R&D division of Japanese railway group Japan Railways has recently begun to test hydrogen powered electric trains. While research on this technology has been promoted in Japan since the early 2000s, it is only now that it appears near to a commercial use. According to the people in charge at the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI), this has been facilitated by a decrease in the manufacturing cost of the hydrogen fuel cells used for producing electricity.


Companies: About Alstom, Hexagon

Countries: France, Germany, Japan

Industries: Railway Vehicles & Infrastructure

Terms: Applications, Business, Innovations

This article has been edited by Basalt.Today
This article has been written on JEC Composites Magazine
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