Canada has witnessed the debut of its first-ever hydrogen-powered train in North America, which is an exciting development for sustainable transport. The groundbreaking train, a short-term loaner from France, aims to promote the adoption of hydrogen technology across the continent during its three-month demonstration period. This initiative is expected to raise awareness and encourage public acceptance of this eco-friendly mode of transportation.
Operating throughout the summer until the end of September, the Canadian loaner train traverses the picturesque Canadian countryside. It embarks on a regular route, taking passengers from Montmorency Falls in Quebec City to Baie-Saint-Paul, offering a scenic two-and-a-half-hour journey every Wednesday to Sunday. Capable of reaching a top speed of 140 km/h (87 mph), the train accommodates up to 120 passengers across its two spacious passenger cars.
"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.”Michael Keroullé, President of Alstom Americas
The innovative train, manufactured by the renowned French company Alstom, is known as the Coradia iLint. It has already achieved successful operations in eight European countries, with 14 of these trains serving Lower Saxony, Germany. Alstom's extensive testing since 2017, and 2018 and subsequent contracts in Germany, Italy, and France have garnered significant interest, resulting in orders for 41 trainsets from European clients.
Unlike traditional diesel engines, the Coradia iLint employs hydrogen fuel cells as its power source. Serge Harnois, CEO of Harnois Énergies, the train's hydrogen fuel supplier, estimates that the train consumes approximately 50 kilograms of hydrogen per day. In comparison, the same journey using a conventional engine would consume roughly 500 liters of diesel fuel. The train's only emission is water vapor, a byproduct of the hydrogen-oxygen reaction within the fuel cell.
The introduction of hydrogen-powered trains is particularly well-suited for regions like the Canadian countryside, where long distances and relatively low commuter density prevail. Similarly, many areas in the United States share these characteristics, making hydrogen trains a viable and eco-friendly transportation solution.
While the three-month demonstration has its limitations, such as the reliance on a diesel-powered truck for hydrogen refueling, there are plans to produce hydrogen on-site in the future to eliminate this requirement.
Additionally, questions arise regarding the emissions produced during the train's journey from Europe to Canada for the brief demonstration period. Nonetheless, after its stint in Canada, the hydrogen-powered train will continue its tour, visiting other cities in North America.
The ultimate goal is to promote the widespread adoption of hydrogen trains across various regions, offsetting any carbon footprint generated during the truck refueling and transatlantic voyage.
The executive director of Ontario's Hydrogen Business Council, Robert Stasko, expressed optimism about the project's potential impact, stating,
"I think the most important thing that's going to come out of it is people's awareness and comfort with the technology."
With North America's first hydrogen-powered train now in operation, the future of sustainable transportation appears promising, offering a greener and cleaner alternative for commuters and the environment alike.