The pros and cons of electromobility

July 17, 2019 by  
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To those of us who concentrate on sustainability and green options for travel, electromobility appears to be a godsend — but the increasingly popular electromobility lifestyle still holds good and bad traits. Thankfully, as the market continues to grow, electric vehicles such as e-bikes and scooters only continue to improve since they were first introduced, and electric cars continue to get more and more sophisticated and efficient each year. While there are obvious benefits to using or even owning one of these trendy vehicles, the electromobility industry still has some kinks to work out. Here are the pros and cons to consider before embracing electromobility. Pro: less utilization of fossil fuels Though the extraction of different kinds of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) present different levels and types of impact on the environment, they all have one thing in common: emitting harmful pollutants and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned. These pollutants can include sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that contribute to acid rain, smog and soot. While the burning of fossil fuels poses serious issues, it doesn’t stop there. The only ways to extract these fossil fuels from the Earth is by mining or drilling, and both have the potential to generate significant air and water pollution , inflict serious health issues to workers or the local community and alter ecosystems. Offshore drilling poses risks of oil spills that can absolutely devastate ocean life. As the transportation sector as a whole relies almost exclusively on fossil fuels, it is responsible for a majority of the hidden environmental costs that the fossil fuel industry implements on the Earth. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy , “In general, EVs produce fewer emissions that contribute to climate change and smog than conventional vehicles … EVs typically produce fewer life cycle emissions [emissions from vehicles over the course of its life from production to disposal] than conventional vehicles, because most emissions are lower for electricity generation than burning gasoline or diesel.” Con: batteries Replacing harmful fossil fuels with electric vehicle batteries comes at a cost. Producing these large lithium batteries requires natural resources from lithium and nickel mines, which can emit pollutants such as sulfur dioxide into the air and pose health risks to workers. Most batteries, especially in smaller EVs like scooters and e-bikes, have a limited lifespan. After disposal, batteries can end up in landfills to release toxins into the environment or in the ocean to harm sea life. Related: We love electric scooters — but is the Bird trend actually bad for the environment? Pro: improved air quality The potential to dramatically improve air quality is arguably the biggest draw for electromobility from an environmental perspective. The lack of exhaust systems in electric vehicles means less carbon dioxide emissions and less greenhouse gas buildup in our atmosphere. According to the U.N. , air pollution causes 1 in 9 deaths around the world and, “Transport contributes approximately one quarter of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, which is set to reach one-third, growing faster than any other sector.” The majority of car growth in the world is expected to take place in developing countries, most of which don’t have any type of vehicle emissions standards or programs incentivizing low-emission transportation. U.N. Environment is working to sponsor 50 countries and cities around the world to introduce electric cars and electric methods of public transportation. Con: energy use Even though electric vehicles don’t emit as much carbon dioxide, the batteries still need to be recharged regularly. As the demand for electric modes of transportation grows, so does the need for energy — and not all energy comes from renewable sources. For this reason, many owners of electric cars opt to install solar panels onto their homes to charge the vehicles from inside their garages at a much lower cost both financially and to the environment. Pro: decreased expenses Just the knowledge alone that their vehicle is better for the environment is enough for some consumers when it comes to purchasing an electric car, scooter or bike, but the reasons to make the investment into electromobility go far beyond peace of mind. A 2018 study from the University of Michigan revealed that in no U.S. state is it cheaper to use gasoline than electricity. Operating an EV in the United States, according to the study, was $485 per year, while the cost for operating a gas-powered car was $1,117. That means on average, gasoline-powered vehicles cost twice as much as electric ones. Because EVs don’t require oil either, oil changes aren’t necessary, meaning maintenance time and cost is significantly reduced as well. If all that still doesn’t convince you, some EV owners are eligible for a tax break as high as $7,500 depending on the individual tax situation and type of vehicle. The EPA website can help you estimate just how much money you could save by making the switch. Images via Airwheel , Trinity eRoller , RJA1988 and Markus Roider

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UK-based company is making home delivery as green as possible with e-cargo bikes

May 28, 2019 by  
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Electric Assisted Vehicles Limited unveiled its new e-cargo bike designed to reduce the carbon footprint of urban home deliveries. The Project 1 eCargo bicycle, nicknamed P1, has a range of 7-20 miles depending on battery size, making it a great addition to any courier or food delivery service with little to no carbon emissions. At just under 6.5 feet in length and 3.4 feet in width, the quadricycle can easily wind its way through streets and roads without causing added congestion. A stable platform allows for the transportation of 330 lbs of cargo. The P1 is peddled and steered like a regular bicycle and a thumb switch makes the vehicle accelerate to 6 mph. A turn crank operated by pedal adds the extra electrical assistance necessary to tackle longer journeys, all with zero carbon emissions . The bikes are compatible with charging stations, as well as can be charged offsite due to the removable batteries. Related: Meet ‘Blade’, the world’s first 3D-printed hypercar “We’ve created a vehicle with Project 1 that will lead on to an entire range of mobility solution vehicles. All highly functional, exceptionally environmentally aware, easy and great fun to use. Also, they have to be very cool to look at which is another crucial cultural point,” says Nigel Gordon-Stewart, managing director of EAV. The company is working to make the P1 completely weather resistant so the vehicle can be usable year-round, regardless of bad weather. EAV is also considering ways to add more passengers and make the vehicle rentable with an app. Businesses can rest assured that the modular chassis design allows for the customization of the P1 whether it needs to be extended, shortened or widened. DPD, the UK’s leading parcel delivery company, worked alongside EAV to help develop the quadricycle. DPD’s CEO commented on the partnership, saying, “Our aim is to be the most responsible city centre delivery company, which means neutralising our carbon footprint and developing smarter, cleaner and more sustainable parcel delivery services. Not only does the P1 look amazing, it is also incredibly smart, flexible and future-proofed. As a result, the P1 is perfect for UK city centres and we are really looking forward to adding it to our rapidly expanding zero emission fleet in July.” + EAV Images via EAV

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This sleek, reusable cutlery set can fit right inside your pocket

May 28, 2019 by  
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Single-use plastic is one of the biggest environmental issues facing us today. Between the production of petroleum and the massive waste stream endangering animals and the planet, it’s time for a war on plastic. One company has decided to begin its battle on the issue with the development of Outlery — compact and portable eating utensils that eliminate the need for the estimated 1,000 plastic utensils Americans use each year. Beginning as a Kickstarter campaign with a meager goal of $5,580, the project has raised over $500,000 with still over a month left in the campaign. Clearly, the idea has the support of similar-minded backers. Outlery comes in two designs: a three-piece cutlery set (fork, knife and spoon) and a chopsticks set. Both products are designed with convenience and portability in mind. In contrast to the typically long and awkward-to-transport silverware you might normally bring from home, Outlery utensils disassemble and fit into a small carrying case about the size of a box of mints. The container will easily slide into a purse, shirt pocket or backpack. When you’re ready to use them, they are readily available and screw together again in just a few seconds. Related: Biofase has discovered a unique way to recycle avocado pits Outlery is 100 percent plastic-free as an obvious statement against single-use disposable plastic forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks. “Outlery is an eco-conscious company that is committed to creating innovative solutions to everyday single-use products,” said Bushra Ch, founder and CEO of Outlery. “The amount of plastic being dumped in the ocean everyday is alarming. It’s hurting sea life , our oceans and most importantly, it has entered our food chain. Ironically, most of the plastic being used today is easily replaceable. We don’t need plastic cutlery, we don’t need plastic straws and neither do we need plastic coffee mugs. At Outlery, we have set out to create easy-to-use and creative alternatives to everyday products. We are starting with plastic cutlery and chopsticks, because the waste produced from these is alarming.” The stainless steel design is intended to endure a long life to further combat the disposable mindset. With this focus on quality, the company has even hired a firm to closely inspect every order before it ships. The Kickstarter campaign, found here , ends on July 5, 2019. Outlery production is expected to start immediately following that date with orders shipping out in the fall. + Outlery Images via Outlery

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This sleek, reusable cutlery set can fit right inside your pocket

AUDIs new electric car will have autonomous vehicle capability and a roof that holds real plants

May 15, 2019 by  
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AUDI revealed the concept for a new electric car with autonomous driving capabilities at Auto Shanghai 2019, and this vehicle really pushes the limits when it comes to connecting technology with nature. Apart from the AI technology implemented to take most of the effort out of driving in general, the AI:ME autonomous vehicle is completely electric. On the interior of the car, a wooden pergola roof allows climbing plants to grow and thrive. According to the company, the AUDI AI systems are “capable of learning and thinking, while also being proactive and personal. Thanks to Audi AI, models bearing the four rings will be both intelligent and empathetic in the future. They will be able to continually interact with their surroundings and passengers, and thus adapt themselves in a better way than ever before to the requirements of those on board.” That’s some serious evolution. Related: AUDI unveils two new swanky self-driving concepts in Frankfurt The autonomous driving capabilities go up to level four on the AI:ME, meaning that though the system doesn’t require any assistance from the driver themselves, it is limited to certain regions, such as highways or specific areas in inner cities. The uncommonly raised headlights will be used to alert other drivers and pedestrians to the presence of the car, rather than as a tool to illuminate the road (unnecessary, as the occupants of the car won’t be driving). The interior has plenty of storage space — a must for autonomous cars, as the passengers will need ample room to do whatever they’re doing instead of driving. Rather than pedals, the AUDI AI:ME has comfortable footrests, and the seats prioritize comfort over function. A 3D monitor with VR goggles allows for everything from watching movies to interactive gaming while in the car , and the high-quality audio system combined with the noise-canceling interior makes outside traffic noise a thing of the past. As for the “green” roof , this is a first for the automobile industry. The designers used filigree wooden struts to construct a pergola above the interior roof surface, giving it the ability to hold living plants. AUDI not only wanted to create a connection between the driver and nature with this innovation but also to improve the air quality within the car (advanced air filters also remove outside odors from traffic and the city). The AI tech uses intelligent algorithms to monitor stress levels of the car’s occupants. This helps the car itself to actually get to know the driver, therefore improving their experience, whether it be preferred temperatures or seat adjustments. + Audi Images via Audi

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Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

April 15, 2019 by  
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Imagine your city without cars — every single Sunday. At first, you might be frustrated by the inconvenience and inability to complete errands, but once you embrace the throngs of bikes, recognize your friends and neighbors among the people out for a stroll or attend a Zumba class at what was once a congested intersection, it’s likely to become one of your favorite traditions. For 45 years, the Colombian city of Bogotá has closed its major roads for Ciclovía, a weekly event where cyclists and pedestrians reclaim the street. The world’s most successful mass recreation event Vox calls the weekly event “the world’s most successful mass recreation event,” and more than 400 cities around the world look to Bogotá as a model for replication. In Spanish, Ciclovía means “Bicycle Way,” but the roads are open to bikes , roller skates, scooters, wheel chairs, skateboards, runners, walkers and all other types of physical activity, recreation and relaxation. Since its launch in 1974 , the event has expanded to include juice bars, fruit stands and exercise classes at various stops along the now 76 miles of designated roadway. Related: France moves to reshape infrastructure and promote bicycle transportation Ciclovía occurs from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every single Sunday and on major holidays, a frequency that sets it apart from similar events in other cities and is credited for its long-term success. Pulling off such a large-scale event is no easy feat in Bogotá , a major Latin American city that normally moves 1.5 million cars, 50,000 taxis and 500,000 motorcycles on any given day. “The Ciclovía is the moment when motor vehicles make way for human beings,” a director for the event, Bibiana Sarmiento, told National Geographic . In fact, nearly 1.5 million Bogotanos take over the public space every Sunday, which is approximately a quarter of the city’s entire population. Statistics show that the average participant is out there for about three hours, which has significantly helped residents reach widely recommended levels of physical activity. Bogotanos, like most city-dwellers, face limited space for recreational activities and soaring rates of chronic diseases linked to sedentary lifestyles. Although Ciclovía is only once a week, the city-wide emphasis on physical activity and community access to exercise classes and bike routes has caused a marked difference in health indicators. Street closures are good for your health In addition to improved air quality and a palpable decrease in stress and aggressive behaviors, the city of Bogotá is also attempting to analyze specific public health benefits. Program analysts studied savings on medical costs and found that Ciclovía saves between $3.20 and $4.30 in direct medical costs per every dollar invested, which is approximately $6 per participant. General analyses also indicate that public health benefits are more profound and long-term when such recreational events are reoccurring, something that sets Ciclovía apart from other cities with similar programs. To date, more than 400 cities worldwide have implemented similar mass recreation and street closure events, including 122 U.S. cities. A major roadblock (pun intended) to hosting such events is the logistical nightmare of acquiring permits for road closures and the cost of paying traffic staff. The benefits can outweigh the costs According to Vox, researchers recommend establishing reoccurring events to streamline permitting, staffing and signage and to ensure that residents are aware of the event and familiar with the detours.  Researchers argue that if made more frequent, “the cost of coordinating the event could come down and it could ‘help thousands to meet weekly recommended levels of [150 minutes of] physical activity.’” Related: How to make American cities bike-friendly “Over time the system has been perfected in terms of minimization of costs and of making the public aware of the road closures,” Marcela Guerrero Casas, managing director of Open Streets Cape Town in South Africa, told Vox. “When you do this consistently (in terms of time and location), people accept and embrace the program.” In addition to onerous permitting procedures, planners cite overtime for police officers as one of the largest and prohibitive expenditures. As part of the success, Ciclovía and a similar event in LA (called CicLAvía) utilize volunteers for traffic assistance. The city also pays for the program through sponsorships and a tax on phone bills, made possible because the program is so longstanding and beloved by all types of people that it is an accepted part of Bogotano culture and government spending. Going car-free can bring together the community Although the specific health and urban planning benefits aren’t always easy to quantify, there is resounding, worldwide interest in events like Ciclovía and a multitude of examples of its uniting , cross-cultural success. “No one cares about the clothes you’re wearing or what social class you’re from,” director Bibiana Sarmiento explained to National Geographic. “Everyone is welcome, and everyone is equal.” Via National Geographic and Vox Images via Saúl Ortega ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Cidades para Pessoas and Carlos Felipe Pardo

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Car-free Sundays are the norm in Colombia’s capital city, Bogot

London becomes the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)

April 10, 2019 by  
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London is officially the first city to have an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The zone, which is active all hours of the day and night, will improve air quality in the city by cutting down on pollution caused by vehicle emissions . Any vehicle traveling inside the ULEZ will have to meet strict emission codes or be subject to fines. Scientists believe that vehicle emissions, specifically nitrogen oxide, account for the majority of air pollution in London and are a serious threat to public health. These harmful chemicals have been known to increase risks of dementia and cancer. Related: Teens exposed to air pollution more likely to experience psychotic episodes, new study says “This is a landmark day for our city. Our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the biggest national health emergencies of our generation,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan shared. The ULEZ was activated on April 8 and any vehicles traveling inside the zone that do not meet emissions standards will face charges of around $16 per day. Larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, will have to pay heftier fines upwards of $130. The zone currently covers an area roughly four miles in size and will be expanded to a much larger area by the fall of 2021. The ULEZ is part of a larger plan to discourage high-emission vehicles from travelling around London. The first stage of the plan initiated what was called a T-charge, which went into effect in the winter of 2017. In the two years since, London has witnessed a drop of around 11,000 vehicles every day from the targeted area. The plan has also increased the number of vehicles becoming compliant with emissions standards in the area. The city’s famous fleet of red double-decker buses, for example, is being upgraded to comply with the new ULEZ.  There are approximately two million residents who live inside the ULEZ, and officials hope the new plan will improve the quality of air so that it meets standards enacted by the European Union. London may be the first city to enact an Ultra Low Emission Zone, but other locations, like New York City, are looking into similar plans. Via CNN Image via  Shrinkin’ Violet

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Lyft vows to help customers find electric vehicles with Green Mode

February 14, 2019 by  
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Lyft is making important strides to decrease carbon emissions in the ride-hailing industry. The company just announced a new initiative called Green Mode, which will make it easier for customers to find electric vehicles (EVs) through the platform. The company, which was the first of its kind to get a carbon-neutral label last year, is planning to introduce a score of electric vehicles in 2019. Putting thousands of EVs on the road will offer a more eco-friendly alternative to customers while putting more money in the pocket of its employees. According to Lyft , the Green Mode program will eventually be incorporated in cities around the world. The company hopes that introducing electric vehicles to cities will significantly curb carbon emissions and reduce the number of gas-powered vehicles on the road. With electric vehicles producing half as much greenhouse gases as their traditional counterparts, Lyft’s program is promising. Lyft will introduce Green Mode in Seattle first before branching out into other cities in the United States. Other locations have yet to be announced. Once the program is widespread, customers will be able to use Green Mode in the company’s app to filter electric and hybrid vehicles . The Green Mode program is also beneficial to drivers. Individuals who use Lyft are always looking for ways to decrease fuel costs, and providing electric vehicles would be a major step to make that happen. That is why Lyft plans to offer an electric vehicle rental service, in which drivers can rent EVs without worrying about mileage or maintenance costs. The company would also pay for the insurance. Lyft will incorporate the rental costs into the driver’s weekly rate. Because electricity costs much less than gasoline, this will put more money in the pocket of drivers who use electric vehicles. In fact, the company estimates that its Green Mode initiative will save employees thousands of dollars every year — and that only accounts for fuel savings. + Lyft Image via Lyft

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Luxembourg will be the first country to offer all public transportation for free

December 10, 2018 by  
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Luxembourg — a small, landlocked European country that borders Belgium, Germany and France — is going to be the first country on Earth to have completely free public transportation . The newly re-elected Xavier Bettel and a coalition government will lift the fares on all of the public trains, trams and buses starting in Summer 2019. The country’s capital, Luxembourg City, is small but has some of the worst traffic congestion in the world. It has a population of about 110,000, but more than 400,000 additional commuters from neighboring countries travel into the city each day for work. Related: Estonia will soon offer free public transportation The traffic jams aren’t just in the capital. The entire country (which is only 999 square miles) is home to approximately 600,000 people, but another 200,000 people cross the Luxembourg border every day to get to work. Free public transportation will begin next summer, and it will continue Luxembourg’s progressive approach to transport. This year, it started offering free transportation to everyone under the age of 20. Secondary school students can also ride free shuttles between school and home. Currently, all other commuters pay a little over two dollars for up to two hours of travel . Since the country is small, that fare covers just about every commute. But by 2020, all tickets will be abolished. There is still some work to do on the policy, because the government has yet to figure out a plan for the first- and second-class train compartments. Still, it is a step in the right direction to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. Via The Guardian Image via Rubentje01

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Pizza Hut unveils a zero-emissions delivery truck that makes pizzas on the go

November 5, 2018 by  
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Pizza Hut and Toyota have teamed up to bring fresh, piping hot pizza to your doorstep with the help of a roaming pizza machine. The Toyota Tundra PIE Pro is a full-size pickup truck with a complete pizza making factory in the back that is entirely operated by computer-guided robotic arms. Not only does the next generation of pizza delivery get the pizzas made and delivered in the blink of an eye, but the delivery trucks are also  zero emissions . The incredible design, which was unveiled at Toyota’s 2018 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, is a truly unique invention. Although we’ve seen plenty of ingenious food trucks , the Tundra Pie Pro is quite possibly the future of pizza delivery. Related: Mouthwatering edible pizza box is waste-free because you can eat it The custom-made truck is installed with a unique truck bed that has been converted into an open-air kitchen. When a pizza order is placed, a pair of computer-guided robotic arms  open the refrigerator and remove the selected pizza. The arms then place the pies on a conveyor belt that passes under a high-speed, ventless oven. Once cooked to perfection, a second arm removes the pizza and places it on a cutting board, where it then cuts it into six identical slices. The arms even put the pizza into a box and off it goes to the customer. The entire process, from start to finish, takes up to seven minutes. Although the objective was to create a faster delivery system, the Pizza Hut and Toyota team were also focused on creating an eco-friendly vehicle. The team took the conventional gasoline-powered drivetrain of the Tundra out and replaced it with a hydrogen fuel-cell electric power unit to make the truck, as well as all of the kitchen components, emissions-free. According to Marianne Radley, chief brand officer of Pizza Hut, the ambitious project was focused on getting piping hot pizza to customers in a faster, more efficient way that won’t contaminate the environment. “Nothing tastes better than a fresh Pizza Hut pizza straight out of the oven,” Radley explained. “The Tundra PIE Pro brings to life our passion for innovation not just on our menu but in digital and delivery in order to provide the best possible customer experience.” + Toyota Tundra PIE Pro Via Core 77 Images via Pizza Hut

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Pizza Hut unveils a zero-emissions delivery truck that makes pizzas on the go

Germany premieres the first hydrogen-powered train in the world

September 18, 2018 by  
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At last, the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains have made their global debut in the northern countryside of Germany . As of Monday, two Coradia iLint locomotives have been transporting passengers back and forth to the towns of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude, just west of Hamburg. The efficient trains were produced by French transportation engineers at Alstom, the same manufacturers who amazed the world in the early 1980s with the world-record-setting bullet train. While the TGV captured many people’s attention as the fastest locomotive in production, its true feat was providing a solution to the 1973 oil crisis in France by featuring an electric — not gas — fueled transmission. Nearly four decades later, Alstom has come to the rescue again as European cities continue to struggle with pollution. Replacing diesel powered engines that are stagnating Germany’s fight for the green is the first push. Related: New photosynthesis machine is twice as efficient at creating hydrogen fuel Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge inaugurated the pair of novel trains at an unveiling ceremony in Bremervoerde, where the trains will undergo routine hydrogen refueling. The company leader said, “The world’s first hydrogen train is entering into commercial service and is ready for serial production.” The bright blue Coradia iLint trains currently operate on a 62-mile (100-kilometer) course. However, in equal capacity to their gas-gulping counterparts, the hydrogen-powered vehicles can travel the span of 600 miles (1000 kilometers) on one tank of hydrogen. The trains rely on fuel cells that can produce electricity from a combined mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. The models are extremely efficient in the conversion — excess electricity can be siphoned into ion lithium batteries stored on board. The only byproducts emitted by this process are steam and water. Many German states have expressed interest in adopting the models to their own transportation lines. The company announced it will be delivering a set of 14 trains to the Lower Saxony region of the nation by 2021. While the zero-emission alternatives are attractive because of their quieter, eco-friendly nature and ability to run without electrified railways, they are not without a high initial price. Stefan Schrank, Alstom’s project manager, said, “Sure, buying a hydrogen train is somewhat more expensive than a diesel train, but it is cheaper to run.” It’s a price many countries are willing to pay for cleaner air . France plans to rail its first hydrogen train by 2022, with the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Canada eager to follow suit. + Alstom Via The Guardian Image via René Frampe / Alstom

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Germany premieres the first hydrogen-powered train in the world

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