North America’s First Hydrogen-Powered Train Will Debut This Summer

While traveling a 90-minute route, the Train de Charlevoix will emit only water vapor

Hydrogen-powered train
The hydrogen-powered train will travel between Parc de la Chute-Montmorency and Baie-Saint-Paul. Train de Charlevoix

This summer, North America’s first zero-emission train will start running in Canada.

The hydrogen-powered Train de Charlevoix will run a 90-minute route between ​​Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, the site of an almost 300-foot waterfall located just outside of Québec City, and Baie-Saint-Paul, a picturesque riverside town known for its art galleries and local food scene, reports the Independent’s Joanna Whitehead. Developed by the French company Alstom, the train has been in the works for a decade. 

The project is a triumph for North America, though European countries beat Canada to the punch: Germany started testing the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger trains in 2018, going on to roll out a fleet in 2022. The German Coradia iLint trains, also made by Alstom, can reach speeds of 140 miles per hour. A single tank of hydrogen can last for more that 600 miles. 

Germany’s trains are a “model for the rest of the world” and “a milestone on the road to climate neutrality in the transport sector,” said Stephan Weil, president of Lower Saxony, last summer, per CNN’s Julia Buckley.

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Canada’s Train de Charlevoix will reach speeds of up to 85 miles per hour, while emitting only water vapor, reports Afar magazine’s Bailey Berg. The trains are powered by combining hydrogen with oxygen.

Particularly in Europe, electric trains are becoming an increasingly common sustainable alternative to diesel-powered trains. But as Smithsonian magazine’s Sarah Kuta wrote last year, electrifying train lines can be a challenging and expensive solution, sometimes making hydrogen more realistic.

According to a statement from Alstom, since 2018 its hydrogen-powered trains have traveled more than 100,000 miles across eight European countries. Now, the company is positioned to expand across the Atlantic.

“With only 1 percent of the networks electrified in our region, this technology will provide an alternative to diesel,” says Michael Keroullé, president of Alstom Americas, in the statement. “This project will demonstrate our capabilities to provide more sustainable mobility solutions to customers, agencies and operators, as well as to passengers. It will also provide an extraordinary showcase for Quebec’s developing green hydrogen ecosystem.”

Service on the new trains will begin on the morning of June 17. Starting in Quebec City, the train will stop at seven riverside towns (including Sainte-Anne-De-Beaupre, Petite Riviere-Saint-Francois and Le Massif) on the way to Baie-Saint-Paul, which it will reach in the late afternoon. Tickets start at $99, while children ride for $69.

Travelers can also sign up for the Eco-Agro tour, a set itinerary that brings passengers to tastings at local breweries, where they’ll learn about sustainable brewing techniques.

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