Germany has introduced the world’s first hydrogen-powered train, marking the beginning of a push to challenge the might of polluting diesel trains with costlier but more environmentally friendly technology.

On Monday, two bright blue Coradia iLint trains built by French TGV manufacturer Alstom began running a 62-mile (100 km) route between the towns and cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoorde, and Buxtehude in northern Germany – a stretch which normally operates diesel trains.

The world’s first hydrogen train is entering commercial service and is ready for serial production,” Alstom CEO Henri Popart-Lafarge said at an unveiling ceremony in Bremervoorde. Hydrogen fuel will be filled in trains at this station.

Alstom has said it plans to deliver 14 of the zero-emissions trains to the state of Lower Saxony by 2021, while other German states have also expressed interest.

Hydrogen trains are equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity through the combination of hydrogen and oxygen, a process that leaves steam and water as the only emissions.

The excess energy in the train is stored in the ion lithium battery.

Coradia iLint trains can run for about 600 miles (1,000 km) on a single tank of hydrogen, similar to the range of diesel trains.

Alstom is betting on the technology as a greener, quieter alternative to diesel on non-electrified railway lines – an attractive prospect for many German cities looking to tackle air pollution.

“Certainly, buying a hydrogen train is somewhat more expensive than a diesel train, but it is cheaper to run,” said Stephen Schrank, project manager at Alstom.

Alstom said other countries including Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Italy, and Canada are also considering hydrogen trains.

In France, the government has already said it wants the first hydrogen train back on track by 2022.

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