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What’s So Special about Germany’s New Fleet of Trains?

Margaret Lipman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Train travel doesn't contribute to carbon dioxide emissions nearly as much as flying – and far less than driving. In fact, rail travel is responsible for less than 1% of transport emissions. Yet there are always ways to make transportation more sustainable. Many countries are moving away from diesel and trying out electric trains powered by renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

In Lower Saxony, Germany, the switch to zero-emissions trains is already underway, with a different approach. Five Coradia iLint hydrogen trains, constructed by the French company Alstom, took to the tracks last month. The first trains to be fully powered by hydrogen fuel cells, they are completely emission-free, releasing only steam and condensed water. Further boosting their sustainable credentials, the heat they generate is used for air conditioning.

The Coradia iLint is much quieter than its diesel predecessors and has immediately begun improving air quality. When the rest of the region's diesel fleet gets replaced by hydrogen power, it will prevent 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere each year. Lower Saxony (and eventually, all of Germany) ultimately plans to transition away from diesel completely, ultimately switching as many as 3,000 trains to hydrogen power.

Rolling towards sustainability:

  • There are plans to introduce hydrogen-powered trains in other parts of Europe, including Frankfurt, Germany; Lombardy, Italy; and several regions of France.

  • The top speed of the hydrogen-powered trains is close to 90 miles per hour (145 km/h), though they will run at 50 to 75 miles per hour (80.5 to 120.7 km/h). They will be able to run all day on just one tank of hydrogen – covering a distance of 621 miles (1,000 km).

  • The only downside is that hydrogen needs to be extracted from other elements, which often involves fossil fuels. The goal is to switch to hydrogen derived from wind power and other green energy sources.

  • Rail companies around the world are implementing major changes in an effort to become carbon neutral, in accordance with the UN's Race to Zero campaign. The air transport industry has pledged an end to carbon emissions by 2050.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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