Germany Launches World's First Hydrogen-Powered Train Fleet

Photo: Alstom/EPA [via Al Jazeera]

The Facts

  • On Wed., Germany inaugurated the world's first hydrogen-powered railway line, with a fleet of 14 trains due to replace the current 15 diesel engines on the 60 mi track connecting the cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde, and Buxtehude near Hamburg.

  • Five of the hydrogen trains have already been launched, with the remainder expected to gradually replace the rest of the diesel engines by the end of the year.

The Spin

Narrative A

Hydrogen-powered trains are the future of railway transportation. They provide a zero-emissions option for travel, can be deployed anywhere, and existing infrastructure can be retrofitted for hydrogen use. These new fleets also have economic benefits because they are cost-effective and require little maintenance. This is groundbreaking work.

Narrative B

At first glance, hydrogen trains appear to be a huge step forward to sustainable travel but they may not be the answer we're looking for: not all industries are able to convert to hydrogen, and, more importantly, not all hydrogen is carbon-free. With most hydrogen used coming from fossil fuel emissions, the true carbon-cost is concealed in the manufacturing process.

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