(CNN) — The future of eco-friendly travel may be here – and Germany is leading the charge, with the first-ever rail line powered entirely by hydrogen trains, starting on Wednesday.
Fourteen fuel cell-powered hydrogen trains will run exclusively on the Bremervörde route in Lower Saxony. The 93 million euro ($92.3 million) deal was struck by state subsidiary Landesnahverkehrsgesellschaft Niedersachsen (LVNG), the owners of the railway, and Alstom, builders of the Coradia iLint trains. The Elbe-Weser Railways and Transport Company (EVB), which will operate the trains, and the gas and engineering company Linde, are also part of the project.
The trains, including five which make their debut on Wednesday, will gradually replace the 15 diesel trains currently running on the route, with all 14 operating exclusively by the end of the year. A single kilo of hydrogen can do the same as about 4.5 kilos of diesel.
The trains are emission-free and quiet, with only steam and condensed water coming out of the exhaust. They have a range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles), meaning they can run all day on the grid on a single tank of hydrogen. A hydrogen refueling station has already been set up on the course. Trains can travel at a maximum of 140 km/h, or 87 mph, although regular speeds on the line are much lower, between 80 and 120 km/h.
The train’s exhaust emits only steam and condensed water.
“Emission-free mobility is one of the most important goals to ensure a sustainable future,” Henri Poupart-Lafarge, CEO of Alstom, said in a statement.
The case was a decade in the making. LVNG had been researching alternatives to diesel since 2012, according to a press release, and in 2018 Alstom conducted a two-year trial of the trains. Germany currently has around 4,000 diesel trains on its non-electrified tracks. The Coradia iLint has also been tested in Austria, Poland, Sweden and the Netherlands.
The service station, operated by Linde, has 64 high-pressure storage tanks, six hydrogen compressors and two fuel pumps.
Lower Saxony President Stephan Weil called the news “a model for the rest of the world” and “an important step on the way to climate neutrality in the transport sector”.
The next destination for the trains will be Frankfurt, where 27 of them have been ordered for the metropolitan area. They will also stop in Italy, where six trains have been put into service for use in the northern Lombardy region, and France, where 12 trains will be shared across four regions.