The German Railway Office (EBA) has given the greenlight to Alstom’s hydrogen fuel cell passenger trainset for commercial operations in the German railway networks.

Alstom’s Coradia iLint train is the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell passenger train that produces electrical power for traction. It has been specially designed to operate on non-electrified lines.

Following the approval, a set of two zero-emission train prototypes will be deployed for a pilot operation in the Elbe-Weser network, with the first passenger services scheduled for late summer.

“This approval is a major milestone for the Coradia iLint and a decisive step towards clean and future-oriented mobility.”

The German Federal Government’s authorised delegate for rail transportation Enak Ferlemann said: “A world premiere in Germany: with the approval of the German Railway Office, we are sending the first passenger train with fuel cell technology onto the tracks.

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“This is a strong sign of the mobility of the future. Hydrogen is a true low-emission and efficient alternative to diesel. Especially on secondary lines, where overhead lines are uneconomic or not yet available, these trains are a clean and environmentally friendly option. That is why we support and promote the technology, in order to bring it to the surface.”

Designed by Alstom’s teams in Salzgitter (Germany) and Tarbes (France), the Coradia iLint received support from the German ministry of economy and mobility.

The company received €8m from the German government as part of the National Innovation Program for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP).

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Alstom R&D and Innovation vice president Wolfram Schwab said: “This approval is a major milestone for the Coradia iLint and a decisive step towards clean and future-oriented mobility. Alstom is immensely proud of this hydrogen-powered regional train, a breakthrough in emission-free mobility and the fact that it will now go into regular passenger operation.”

In November last year, Alstom signed a contract with local transport authority Lower Saxony (LNVG) for the delivery of 14 hydrogen fuel cell trains. The contract also includes a provision of maintenance and energy supply for a period of 30 years.