Not Your Grandfather’s Steam Engine: Germany Introduces The Coradia iLint

220px-52_8134_hoentrop_2012-09-16220px-lintarrivadanmarkgredstedbroGermany has introduced the hydrogen-based Coradia iLint which will be the world’s first zero-emission passenger train. It will only release steam and represents another towering victory for the Germans in reducing pollution and fighting climate change.

The acronym LINT is short for the German “Leichter Innovativer Nahverkehrstriebwagen” (light innovative local transport rail vehicle) and was designed by Linke-Hofmann-Busch. The hydrogen burns with oxygen with only discharging water from the energy.

The Coradia iLint only emits excess steam into the atmosphere, and provides an alternative to the country’s 4,000 diesel trains. It is also virtually silent except for the sound of its wheels and the wind. It can travel almost 500 miles per day at speeds of up to 87mph.

The Germans could ultimately replace thousands of diesel trains in a massive reduction of pollution. It will roll out in December 2017.

The United States needs to show an equal commitment to this emerging market of green technology unless we want to cede dominance to the Germans. In the meantime, the world should rejoice in the breakthrough of this important technology.

50 thoughts on “Not Your Grandfather’s Steam Engine: Germany Introduces The Coradia iLint”

  1. When there is excess generation from the wind turbines, rather than curtail the excess can be used for hydrolysis. This extra power is almost free.

  2. Just to throw a curve ball into these proceedings, there are some who believe there is something called “zero point energy” which might be able to be harnessed, to provide cheap power without any of those petro industry issues.

  3. Hard to imagine even why the Germans are doing this. Climate change? Ain’t no such thing. Renewable energy? Heck, drill baby drill? Just ask the Republicans.

  4. I’m putting on my Energy from Thorium hat. Low grade manageable fission that is just about as low-impact and low-cost as you can get. Makes electric vehicles very doable.

    1. slohrss29.

      I talked with the CEO of a company trying to make a thorium reactor excited with laser technology. The application would be to use the reactor in a car. The cool paradigm shift would be that instead of plugging your car into your house to charge it, you could plug your house into your car to run your house.

      1. I think the prospect of a thorium-powered car might have some public-relations issues….

        1. Only due to the dis-information of nuclear power. It should scare the public just as much as having highly volatile gas tank in a car or a furnace in their basement.

      2. Very interesting Jim22. Thanks for sharing. Thorium has lots of opportunities. Not as “hot” as fissile uranium or plutonium (to be honest, I forget all the specific materials), and can self manage if the reactor coolant goes off line. Without all the crazy infrastructure needed to cool and control a thorium reactor, you could look at small community-sized reactors, and possibly as you point out, a vehicle run on a thorium reactor. As we know, and see from time to time, natural gas has it’s issues too. I would venture to say that a thorium reactor could be safer than natural gas.

    2. Unfortunately, there is so much nuclear dis-information out there that it will take a long time to reverse the damage done by the brainiacs such as Jan Fonda.

  5. As others have noted, there’s no indication as to the hydrogen source. At present, there’s no cost-effective source of hydrogen for fuel. Hydrogen is naturally-occurring, in fact, it’s absolutely plentiful in our environment. Separating pure hydrogen from everything else, however, is expensive. Really expensive. In fact, it requires more electric energy to distill hydrogen molecules from everything else they’re attached to than you get in hydrogen energy. Making hydrogen fuel is a net loss of energy, and in a major way.

    Germany has a LOT of very expensive renewable electric energy, so if they’re using that expensive source to get to pure hydrogen, it’s an even worse economic bargain.

  6. European investors are pulling out of the US stock market. They may see more sustainable innovation coming from other regions like Germany, frightening prospects for US leadership, and they can clearly see that huge big bank investments in DAPL and other fossil fuel infrastructure are being strongly challenged by an angry public.

    1. The Hindenburg and all other German airships used hydrogen, because the US wouldn’t sell them any helium…..

  7. Jonathan:

    You also left out consideration of the cost of the hydrogen fuel. If it costs less than the alternative, great. If it costs more – what could have been done with the extra resources necessary to produce it – including saving lives one way or another?

  8. Jonathan:

    You left out any impact from the processing necessary to get the fuel into the form used by the engine.

  9. Not having read the original article this comes from, are they actually burning the hydrogen or is this a fuel cell vehicle where the hydrogen and oxygen are combined in a more controlled reaction to generate electricity? I would assume that a fuel cell would be far more efficient than a combustion engine burning hydrogen. From the statement that it is virtually silent, I must assume this is a fuel cell vehicle.

    As far as blowing up and keeping the hydrogen cold, I would assume the hydrogen is under pressure and does not need to be refrigerated and that the storage container uses technology that limits the emission of hydrogen even if the tank was punctured. My understanding is that we are at a point technologically where a hydrogen explosion is extremely unlikely. On top of that, you still need to mix the hydrogen with oxygen for there to be an explosion. The limited amount of oxygen in the atmosphere limits the speed of that reaction and creates more of a fire than an explosion. Most explosives have an oxygen source built right into them so that they do not rely on the oxygen in the atmosphere. With out the oxygen you don’t get high explosives.

    1. Pure hydrogen disaster – Hindenburg
      Oxygen/hydrogen disaster – Space Shuttle Challeneger

  10. This is an example of an intelligent society where the private sector is integrated with the public sector for the benefit of the people, without which there would be no sectors.

    This technology regardless of whether or not it proves to be a benefit in the long run is necessary in order to arrive at a result that does prove to be a benefit to society. It never ceases to amaze me how many idiots there are whose first response is that it is not practical, might blow up, or other knee jerk negative response.

    In the seventies European (Swiss) bus manufacturers experimented with drive wheels that would store the energy of a bus going down hill and release it when needed. It was a failure as the wheels had to be so big that they sometimes got away from the bus and caused accidents. There were those that derided the experiments as useless and a waste of time when fossil fuels and electricity were there. Scroll forward to today and one of the main ingredients in the Prius and Tesla and the electric and other cars to come is the accumulating, storing, and using of this very same energy. You must progress. You must not listen to those who want an immediate and proven result. It is also good business, keeps the money flowing, etc.

    The US could learn from other countries. As far as creating hydrogen goes, there are hundreds of square miles of warehouse roofs right in the metropolitan areas of the cities that are the most congested: LA, Orlando, Miami, etc. Solar panels covering these roofs could easily create the hydrogen needed for buses, cars, trucks, etc right where they are, without the need of new grids to bring it in. The energy could also be used to heat and cool the warehouses. Talk about an unused resource but then there’s the status quo. The status quo pertains mainly to existing electricity users and their support for the infrastructure. Layering solar to replace fossil fuels does not impact the utility companies.

    1. “It never ceases to amaze me how many idiots there are whose first response is that it is not practical, might blow up, or other knee jerk negative response.”

      If you never cease to be amazed then take a look in the mirror at the idiot.

      Karen’s post above exemplifies a public/private partnership rammed down the taxpayer’s throats WITHOUT listening to the “idiots” that WILL consider the unintended consequences of your progressive good intentions. And “good intentions” was being overly kind. In a state that has done everything they can to avoid building new reservoirs (in I believe 40 years) to capture the rainfall/melting snow pack and making it a nightmare to build desalination plants, they invest instead in this HSR boondoggle.

      Just follow the money on who got awarded the contracts to build CA’s HSR in that will tell you all you need to know on why that project was approved. Idiots indeed.

    2. “This is an example of an intelligent society where the private sector is integrated with the public sector for the benefit of the people”

      Pretty much the definition of crony capitalism. Except instead of benefiting the “people” it benefits the companies lining the politicians pockets.

  11. I love how 18th century tech (trains) can save the 21st century.
    I can’t wait to hitch my horse up to the wagon and head to town.
    My true dream is that the outhouse make a comeback also.

    1. Well, mack, what is your preferred solution to providing transport in the 21st century? Mopeds? Harley Davidson motorcycles? More 18-wheelers?

  12. This is a concept train. Don’t expect to see massive deployment of the technology any time soon.

    1. If you’re being philosophical, hydrogen was one of the first elements that came into being after the Big Bang. Or, if you are religious, perhaps God said, “let there be hydrogen!”

      1. I said ” the Hydrogen.” Meaning, the hydrogen they propose to use. Not the element itself. This is nothing to do with philosophy; it is practical assessment of the argument, to wit, this being a “zero emissions” project. If you ask where the hydrogen comes from, you will think about what certain other commenters mentioned, although not replying directly to me.

        I honestly want to know.

        If you get the hydrogen from water, it takes energy to crack that bond. What energy source is used to do that? How much does it take? If you think carbon is a pollutant (and if you do, I think you ridiculous), it had better not involve carbon, if you want to claim this train to be “zero emissions.” I always call “electric cars” “coal-driven automobiles.” The energy has to come from somewhere.

        If there is a source of free hydrogen, I’d like to know about it.

        My point was inherent in my brief comment. It just took a little thinking to discover it, which you did not do. I could have spelled it out last night, of course, but I made the assumption that it was a smart group I was talking to, and would be insulting their intelligence. Oh, well.

        1. Patrick,
          The utilitarians among us don’t concern themselves with those pesky questions whose answers tend to disrupt their march towards the “greater” good. Somewhere along the path towards a Utopian society they’ll simply “tweak” their grand experiment with additional laws, regulations and of course public expenditures. I see a mandate for the citizens of California to not only utilize the HSR once completed but also a hefty “tax” to cover the cost overruns. Their already talking about a mileage tax for those “stupid” commuters that won’t give up their vehicles.

  13. I wonder why they chose this over a Maglev like China and Japan? But then again I am not an engineer. =) All I can say is I wish we had more passenger trains in the US. It would make travel a lot easier vs driving or flying. It’s also fun to travel by train – being able to walk around and one often meets interesting people. That’s something I miss about Europe – being able to take trains all over and for the most part the train stations are located in nice and safe areas of the cities and towns. Or at least it used to be that way.

    KarenS – your post was informative – sounds like poor planning.

    1. I guess the big thing is that this tech uses standard rails. The maglev (very fascinating tech) would require a substantial investment and construction time for the track.

    2. Maglev requires a completely different and very expensive roadbed. In this country, the eminent domain issues to place such roadbeds would be politically impossible. Plus, if any maglev railroads were built here, people would come out of the woodwork to sue, complaining that the magnetic fields made them sterile, or erased their credit cards, or gave them headaches, or something. Obviously, we need to tear down all railroads and force all commerce to use trucks.

  14. This is of course welcome news and that we are moving ahead with divorcing ourselves from our bad marriage to fossil fuels and the corrupt governments earning money for despicable goals.

    We did however have times when reasonably long stretches of freight traffic were powered by overhead electric lines, but they fell out of favor especially when The Milwaukee Road declined in the 1970s. An advantage of this German locomotive is that it can service branch lines that are not electrified and diesel-electric is the only available choice. A true victory will come in the form of a freight train.

  15. This sounds fantastic. Does it run on the existing rails, or did they cut new track for it? Also, what are the safeguards against the hydrogen combusting?

    I much prefer this innovative upgrade than California’s vacation train boondoggle.

    The problems with the “high speed rail” here in CA are:
    1. The projected ridership was wildly overinflated, while the cost was wildly underestimated. So much so that it appeared deliberate. The result is that this train is costing taxpayers exponentially more for a train that is projected to be mostly empty once the novelty wears off.
    2. The high speed was over estimated. They did not want the boom of ultra fast trains going through populated areas, so they slowed it down, only speeding it up in rural areas where the people are peasants and do not matter. Plus, they have to switch trains I think 3 times, now, to get from LA to SF, making the trip, and cost, comparable to an airline ticket but take longer.
    3. The High Speed Rail Authority is using eminent domain to seize properties for this boondoggle, forcing people from their homes so that people can take a vacation in San Francisco.
    4. It will do nothing to reduce the gridlock that makes life in SoCal hell, because really, how many people on the freeways are commuting 6 hours to San Francisco each day?
    5. It will produce a net increase in pollution due to projected low ridership and the failure to remove cars from the roads.
    6. It is a pork project to benefit the Democratic union mega donors.
    7. The train will create a terrible noise due to high speeds, rendering the bucolic atmosphere of rural areas completely destroyed and making owning horses anywhere near the proposed line suicidal. (They tend to spook at Armageddon like noises.) They’ve played recordings of similar high speed rail passing by and it’s awful.
    8. It will decimate wildlife. As has been seen in Europe, high speed trains travel too fast for animals to get out of the way.
    9. In its eminent wisdom, the High Speed Rail Authority deemed it prudent to put 26 miles of track…underground…by 3 fault lines…in an earthquake state.
    10. A hydrologist with the High Speed Rail Authority informed us that the construction of the rail, and the underground tunnel, will drain any water resource it encounters. Can’t have water on the track. In a state suffering it’s 6th year of drought and with resources already strained to the limit. They are already capping farmers wells and restricting others…but now they are going to drain underground water resources.
    11. It is estimated that the train will have to be overhauled every 35 years, and require massive subsidies into perpetuity, in a heavily financially strapped state, in which more than one major city has filed bankruptcy.

    Where CA missed the boat, is it could have upgraded a passenger train to something cleaner, such as the iLINT. Perhaps update vehicles with the same technology, as long as it doesn’t explode in a traffic accident. Clean up the pollution our current transportation methodologies produce rather than wasting taxpayer money on a vacation train. Work on transportation the will actually help people get to work, rather than vacation. Expand the Metrolink so that it actually goes where people need to.

    1. I’ve heard enough about this high speed rail line to know that it is exactly as Karen stated–nothing more than a political graft to support various unions and contractors. The average rural people will suffer the most. Why should Californians pay for the vacation aspirations of those in the Bay area?

      My hometown came up with this grand idea to form a public transit authority to provide at first free (essentially) bus rides for this newly formed municipal corporation of transit, funded by sales tax revenue. After several years most of the busses had only a handful of riders per fare. But of course the transit authority manipulated the numbers to increase the deception that this bus program was working but it was not.

      This sounds quite Machiavellian, but one of the outlying communities had no public welfare accommodations until the bus system moved to their community. Previously, the town was rather sleepy and rarely received a call for service from the Sheriff’s office. As soon as the public transit service came about more undesirables moved to town and the crime rate doubled or tripled. The system is not cost effective, in terms of both carbon pollution per person and the ridership is low. But, despite this like any other government pet project it is inefficient and continues to be another white elephant that nobody wants to touch since it has become so entrenched into the political community. Too many bureaucrats need to justify their positions to maintain their empires and provide the illusion that the’re are so important that they cannot be fired.

    2. Karen, did your sources provide any information on air-pollution reduction in the central valley, which on the average cloudless, sunny day – with air quality worse than perhaps anywhere in the US – has the clarity of a Saharan sandstorm?

      1. Air pollution in the central valley is caused by a variety of factors. I just drove through there going to a horse show. The Central Valley is mostly farms and ranches. Contaminants include blowing manure from massive piles from intensive feed lots, dust, smoke from burning brush, pesticides, herbicides, and smog. (Here is where I say buy organic! Support grass fed dairies and free range poultry! Grain fed, intensive feed lot practices are filthy and they smell bloody awful.) Due to the valley geography, pollutants pool, similar to they way it does in Los Angeles County further south. San Francisco looks so clear and clean and beautiful because that brisk sea air blows the pollution inland, where it damages the forests of the Redwoods, and collects in the basin of the Central Valley. When I drove through, I could see dirt and dust blowing in the air and the feedlots stank for miles. Tractors piled up the manure, which blew into the air. I’m an omnivore, but you really do get more for your money with the far more expensive grass fed meat, if you can learn how to cook it properly.

        A vacation train from Los Angeles to San Francisco will not reduce air pollution in the Central Valley. Rapid transit in Fresno could have some slight improvement in air quality. However, unlike New York and London, California has sprawl. We are not hyper concentrated in cities in the shade, but rather are out in a web around business centers. This has historically made rapid transit very difficult in our state.

        1. “A vacation train from Los Angeles to San Francisco will not reduce air pollution in the Central Valley. ”

          Whether it’s a vacation train (nice spin) or a mass transit system to reduce the tens if not hundreds of thousands of vehicles each day that travel Interstate 5 and/or State Highway 99 and the pollutants they cause in moving people between Sacramento, the Bay Area, LA, San Diego – four of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation – and all points in between, you should consider those who otherwise have zero transportation between these destinations and all parts in-between, those who would take the train rather than fly and the reduction in pollution from air travel, and the bumper to bumper traffic for hundreds of miles every weekend.

          Do you have any credible evidence that this system would be underutilized?

          As for its impact on wildlife, is there any wildlife in the central valley other than vastly overcrowded cattle slaughter facilities? And what is the difference between a high speed train and an interstate in terms of saving animals? Snuffy doing 95 mph in his Honda VTec coupe with air foil and glasspack mufflers is going to see a deer leap out in front of him quickly enough to avoid collision?

          It seems to me, if we’re going to spend money, it should be spent on the public, not football stadiums and other pet projects of the few. I’d love to be able to take the high-speed rail to Oakland to see my family. This is a good expenditure, if it’s supervised properly.

          Jus’ sayin’.

          1. Steve,
            Is there any credible evidence the HSR network will do anything to reduce “pollution from air travel, and the bumper to bumper traffic for hundreds of miles every weekend.”? How about every weekday as well? San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego all have commuter rail systems in place, how’s the traffic congestion? Each and every one of these rely on the majority of passengers to get in their cars, use park & rides and then once to the station, they still need another form of transportation to get from the station to their final destination. I’ve commuted in SoCal since 1979 and despite public funds being dumped into all of these ventures, the only thing they’ve managed to alleviate is tax dollars from the pockets of the citizens.

            High-Speed Rail should be what our state legislature is run out on. THAT would be an improvement!

            1. Olly: It would seem intuitive enough that 450 passengers removed from air transport or the I5 or Hwy 99 and placed on the HSR would reduce emissions, and I assume there will be more than one train on that set of tracks.

              From Wikipedia:

              According to a fact sheet on the Authority website[33] the environmental benefits of the system include:

              “In 2022, when the Initial Operating Section (Merced to the San Fernando Valley) is up and running, the resulting greenhouse gas reductions will be between 100,000 and 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the first year. That’s the equivalent of from between 17,700 and 53,000 personal vehicles taken off the road.

              “Between 2022 and 2040, the cumulative reduction of CO2 is estimated to be between 5 and 10 million metric tons. By 2040, the system is estimated to reduce vehicles miles of travel in the state by almost 10 million miles of travel every day (16,000,000 km).

              “Over a 58-year period (from the start of operations in 2022 through 2080), the system is estimated to reduce auto travel on the state’s highways and roads by over 400 billion miles of travel (6.4×1011 km). . . .”

              From downtown LA to San Francisco will have a travel time of 2 hours, 40 minutes, non-stop. By car, you’ll be lucky have passed by beautiful Bakersfield during a demoralizing and exhausting trip through hell.

              Equating the current system to the HSR is like comparing a Model T to a Tesla, and I don’t think your argument about still having to park at the station merits a response. Res ipsa loquitur.

              In passing, I hope you aren’t voting ‘yes’ on C for a new Chargers stadium when our City is equitably bankrupt and intent on incurring $1.2 B in debt to build it while at the same time complaining about new tax exposure from the HSR. Even if the City plans a hotel-tax hike to pay for it, that debt obligation alone would curtail other infrastructure maintenance which is badly needed.

          2. Steve G – I absolutely support low emission mass transit where appropriate.

            The problem here is we are blowing a shocking amount of money on a project that will not fix the problem.

            I live in CA. We have some of the worst, potholed roads in America. Some sections of our freeway are still reverse graded, which means their angle actually pushes cars towards the edge of the road. We have such hideous gridlock that it routinely takes 2 hours to travel 25 miles. The 405 freeway will have traffic 24/7, 365 days a year. You can go on the 405 at 4:00 AM Sunday morning, and encounter traffic. Our taxes, fees, etc have now made trucking prohibitively expensive, which in turn has raised the cost of every good and service sold in CA.

            An infinitesimally small number of cars on that road are traveling from LA to San Francisco, that are NOT shipping companies. They are traveling to work in LA County.

            We already have the Metrolink which services LA County. It is expensive, has low ridership, and it does not have nearly all the stops you need. I know of only one person who uses it and loves it, and that’s because he has a lot of take home work that he does in the 2 hours it takes him to get home on the train. (Did I mention that with all the sprawl and interminable stops it takes forever to use the train?) When CA builds new freeways, it built a toll road, which is almost as empty as a bowling alley because people cannot afford to pay even more on top of being the highest taxed nation in the state. They used taxpayer money to build it, and want us to pay to use it. And they deliberately removed manned kiosks and replaced them with electronic transponder readers. Don’t have a transponder and you’re on this road? Expect a huge ticket. This was a deliberate revenue generating scheme aimed at out-of-towners.

            The majority of people who travel from LA to SF are on vacation. People just do not commute 6-9 hours each way for work. That’s a mathematical impossibility. So this leaves vacationers. The leisure travelers. We literally are blowing more than $65 billion, with subsidies into perpetuity, for the leisure travelers going specifically to San Francisco. Because there are not that many vacationers heading to Bakersfield.

            We already have the Metrolink which is supposed to service people commuting to work. We could have used that money to add a few stops. Find ways to bring the cost of a ticket down. Add trains that don’t make every stop, so that it doesn’t take 3 hours to travel 60 miles. Build a reservoir so our water doesn’t shut off. Take care of our homeless problem. Pay the close to $1 billion we pay annually on the homeless.

            I don’t know…something with a tangible and immediate benefit.

    1. That is true, but water has a natural and dynamic cycle in the atmosphere. The increased water vapor will quickly be brought down as rain.
      CO2 has a much slower cycle, making it more dangerous in the long run.

  16. Wait until you have the first catastrophic explosion of trying to keep the hydrogen cold.
    Other than the space program, I don’t know where a hydrogen ‘engine’ has been used successfully.

        1. Are you saying that there is no danger of explosion at all with diesel, Ron?
          While diesel may be the safest relative to other petroleum fuels, it’s not foolproof. And hydrogen fuel-related safety is completely dependent on our management technologies. I’m sure in the coming years that will improve, and the probability of an accident will go down.

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