Hydrogen-powered passenger train rides the rails in North America
French transport multinational Alstom debuted the world's first hydrogen fuel-cell passenger train back in 2016, which went into service in Germany last year. Now the Coradia iLint is rolling down the track in North America for the first time.
The first hydrogen-powered train journey in North America took place on June 17 as part of a three-month demonstration project in Canada, and transported a hundred passengers on a stretch of the Réseau de Charlevoix railway network – a 90-km (56-mile) route between Parc de la Chute-Montmorency in Quebec City and Baie St-Paul that runs through the UNESCO-listed Charlevoix Biosphere Reserve.
The two-carriage train makes use of fuel cells from Accelera by Cummins and, importantly, sources its green hydrogen from Harnois Énergies in Quebec City, though Engadget does point out that the hydrogen will be hauled to the refueling point in Baie St-Paul by diesel trucks – at least until on-site infrastructure cleans up the act.
The Coradia iLint has been designed specifically to serve non-electrified or partially electrified railway networks. It's reported able to achieve a top speed of 140 km/h (87 mph), and boasts similar acceleration and braking chops to regional diesel trains.
With a full tank feeding the hydrogen fuel cells, the Coradia iLint has a range of around 1,000 km (620 miles), though Alstom reports that a test train did manage 1,175 km (730 miles) without refueling in September 2022.
The only emissions from system will be steam and condensed water, and the train should offer a quieter experience for passengers and for folks living near the railway line.
The demonstration project will run throughout the Quebec summer, and will help Alstom, the Government of Quebec, Chemin de fer Charlevoix, Train de Charlevoix, Harnois Énergies, HTEC and Accelera by Cummins to plan for the rollout of hydrogen-powered trains across North America and develop the necessary support ecosystem.
Alstom Americas has also set up a new innovation center at its headquarters in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec, to develop future hybrid, battery and green-hydrogen propulsion platforms designed for the North American market.
"We are very proud to see our Coradia iLint hydrogen train onboard and carry its first North American passengers here in Quebec," said Michael Keroullé, President of Alstom Americas. "Alstom is fully involved in the decarbonization of mobility in the world and particularly in America. Hydrogen technology offers an alternative to diesel and demonstrates our ability to provide more sustainable mobility solutions to our customers, agencies and operators, as well as passengers. It will also provide an extraordinary showcase for Quebec’s green hydrogen ecosystem, which is under development."