Hydrogen trains move the near future of rail mobility. Indeed, the need and urgency to decarbonize transportation for more efficient and sustainable mobility is one of the priorities of the international rail system, and hydrogen seems to be the solution. Or at least one of the possible and most plausible alternatives to diesel convoys.

In May 2022, Ursula Von der Layen, President of the European Commission, in the new RePower EU plan emphasized and reiterated the key role of hydrogen for the energy transition: the goal is to produce ten million tons per year of green hydrogen, i.e., derived from renewable energy sources, by 2030.

How does a hydrogen train work?

Hydrogen-powered (or Hydrail) trains are equipped with fuel cells in which, through reverse electrolysis, hydrogen located in the tanks and oxygen in the air are converted into electricity to drive an electric traction motor.
Unlike electric vehicles, hydrogen-powered vehicles produce electricity autonomously, without the need to draw it from a battery, which is why their operation does not require electrified lines.

Introduced in 2016, Alstom’s Coradia iLint is the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train that entered service in 2018 in Germany, covering more than 200,000 km through 2022.

As of September 2022, the Coradia iLint has successfully traveled 1,175 kilometers on a single hydrogen refueling, from Bremervörde in Lower Saxony to Munich, meeting and exceeding the set target of 1,000 kilometers.

This new range record demonstrates:

  • the effectiveness of hydrogen-powered solutions for long-distance transport;
  • the importance of Hydrail for smart and sustainable mobility;
  • the feasibility of zero-emission mobility.
Alstom Coradia iLint BR554 001 at Hildesheim Hbf – CC BY 4.0 license by Wikipedia

Hydrogen trains in Italy

Val Camonica is already set to become Italy’s first Hydrogen Valley: the H2Iseo project by Trenord and Gruppo FNM envisions the introduction of the first 100% hydrogen powered trains on the non-electrified Brescia-Iseo-Edolo line in 2024.

The aim is to foster the development of a true hydrogen supply chain, to be extended to all non-electrified lines as well as to road transport.

The benefits of hydrogen trains

The use of hydrogen offers 5 main benefits to the railway system specifically and to the environment in general:

  1. Zero C02 (carbon dioxide) emissions: the only waste product is a mix of water vapor and condensate water.
  2. Low noise, like electric vehicles.
  3. Autonomy of up to 1000 km and quick refueling, like gasoline vehicles.
  4. Use of existing rail infrastructure.
  5. Reduced maintenance compared to electric vehicles and components.

The cons of a hydrogen train: electromagnetic emissions

Hydrogen fuel cells convert chemical energy into electrical energy, so hydrogen trains also produce high and low frequency electromagnetic fields.

How to reduce electromagnetic emissions in hydrogen trains?

Low-frequency electromagnetic shielding is the solution to ensure proper system operation and avoid harmful electromagnetic emissions.

Equipping a hydrogen train with appropriate electromagnetic shielding means making it for all intents and purposes a zero-emission means of transportation: in addition to not emitting pollutant substances into the air, EMC shielding greatly reduces electromagnetic pollution generated by low-frequency fields.

Our SKUDOTECH® technology has already been used to shield hydrogen trains because its characteristics fit perfectly with both the medium itself and the principle of sustainability.

If you would like to learn more about SKUDOTECH® shielding technology and how it can be used for your rail projects, please contact us.

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