On Sunday 16 September, 2018, a bright blue train, packed full of high-profile guests and members of the press, rolled into a station in Bremervörde, Northern Germany. Other than a small hum, the train was virtually silent.
And it was a revelation. The Coradia iLint train is powered exclusively by fuel cells that convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. That means that the trains — which can hold up to 300 passengers and reach speeds of 140km per hour — have no emissions other than steam and water.
They’re fuelled at a “mobile hydrogen filling station”, and when fully filled, can run for a full day over a 1,000km distance — similar to diesel trains.
48-year-old Henri Poupart-Lafarge is Chairman and CEO of Alstom, the French railway company that created the train. There are two models in service in the German state of Lower Saxony, with plans to bring a further 14 into circulation in the area by 2021.
Poupart-Lafarge said the Coradia iLint heralds a “new era” in emission-free rail transport. “This is a revolution for Alstom and for the future of mobility. The world’s first hydrogen fuel cell train is entering passenger service and is ready for serial production.
“It is an innovation that results from French-German teamwork and exemplifies successful cross-border cooperation.”
The technology could end up being used in Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Canada, with France indicating that it wants hydrogen trains on its rails by 2022.
Poupart-Lafarge has been instrumental in Alstom’s recent mission change, aiming to be the “leading global innovative player for a sustainable and smart mobility” across eco-friendly design, autonomous trains, and general energy performance. The CEO added that by 2025, all of the group’s electricity is to come from renewable sources.
Poupart-Lafarge was educated at the École nationale des ponts et chaussées and MIT. His career began at the World Bank in 1992, before he joined the French Ministry of Economy and Finance in 1994. He joined Alstom in 1998 as Head of Investor Relations, and from 2004-2010 he was Chief Financial Officer of the Alstom Group — before becoming President of the Transport Sector and later Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 2016.Tags: Electric vehicle, France, trains