Germany has rolled out the world's first hydrogen-powered train signalling the start of a push to challenge the might of polluting diesel locomotives.

Hydrogen fuel cells are more co-friendly technology, creating electricity to power a battery and motor by mixing hydrogen and oxygen.

The only emissions are steam and water with excess energy stored in ion lithium batteries on board the train.

However, they are more expensive than the fossil fuel based trains commonly used in the region where they have been unveiled.

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Two bright blue Coradia iLint trains, built by French TGV bullet train maker Alstom, began running a 62-mile (100km) route between the towns and cities of Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven, Bremervoerde and Buxtehude in northern Germany.

The Coradia iLint trains can run for around 620 miles (1,000km) 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 to many German cities scrambling to combat air pollution.

"The world's first hydrogen train is entering into commercial service and is ready for serial production," Alstom CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge said at an unveiling ceremony in Bremervoerde, the station where the trains will be refuelled with hydrogen.

Other countries are also looking into hydrogen trains, Alstom said, including Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Italy and Canada.

In France, the government has already said it wants the first hydrogen train to be on the rails by 2022.

"Sure, buying a hydrogen train is somewhat more expensive than a diesel train, but it is cheaper to run," Stefan Schrank, the project's manager at Alstom, told AFP.

The new trains will be fuelled at a mobile hydrogen filling station.

The gaseous hydrogen will be pumped into the trains from a 40-foot (12 metre) high steel container next to the tracks at Bremervoerde station.

With one tank, they can run throughout the network the whole day.

The Coradia iLint is built by Altom and whose clean engine outputs only water. Photo / Supplied, Altom.com
The Coradia iLint is built by Altom and whose clean engine outputs only water. Photo / Supplied, Altom.com

A stationary filling station on Elbe-Weser Train (EVB) premises is scheduled to go into operation in 2021, when Alstom will deliver a further 14 Coradia iLint trains.

With around two million rail passengers and around four million bus passengers per year, EVB figures among the largest mobility providers in the Elbe-Weser triangle of Lower Saxony.