Hydrogen trains: the SNCF wants to order "a fortnight" to Alstom

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Six regions would be interested in these trains, and the state could give a boost for the purchase.


A hydrogen train in Leipzig, Germany, on February 1, 2019. (dpa / PETER ENDIG)

It would be a first in France. The SNCF could order "fifteen" regional trains running on the hydrogen of the manufacturer Alstom, said Thursday, August 25, his boss Guillaume Pepy. If this type of train does not emit pollutants, the manufacture of hydrogen is still based on fossil fuels.

"We hope that in a few weeks, by putting around the table six regions (…), the State that will help us and then Alstom and us, we will sign a contract to build about fifteen hydrogen trains", said Pepy on RMC and BFMTV. "It will be a first in France," he said, adding that he hoped to see these trains circulating in "two years, roughly" -which would correspond to the government's goal of rolling prototypes before the end of the five-year period.

"HE DOES ONLY REJECT WATER"

An advantage of hydrogen is that "all the way, the train emits no pollutants", since it only discharges water, recalled Mr. Pepy. If its use is virtuous, the source of hydrogen can be problematic: currently, 95% of the hydrogen consumed in France comes from fossil fuels. Another method by electrolysis of water exists, but it is still expensive and not widespread.

Last year, Alstom proposed a French adaptation of its hydrogen train, which has been running since September 2018 in Germany.

The French group had then announced that it would like the regions to quickly order thirty copies of this new vehicle, which would be a two-mode version (electric and hydrogen) of the Regiolis model already circulating in the French regions.

MORE DIESEL IN 15 YEARS?

SNCF has since brought together the regions concerned to draw up specifications. Occitania, in particular, announced early that it wanted three copies.

Guillaume Pepy also recalled that the SNCF was betting on hybrid trains, replacing all or part of the diesel engines of existing railcars with batteries.

"The goal is that there will not be a single diesel on the French tracks in 15 years," repeated the boss of the public group.



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