More than 200 years ago, the first steam trains appeared in Wales. If this revolution is a leap towards the modernity of the 19th century, rail transport is about to relive a revolution that will adapt to the ecological problems of the 21st century: the first hydrogen train.
The SNCF has ordered 12 hydrogen-powered trains from French hydrogen energy pioneer Alstom for four regions (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand-Est and Occitanie). This is an important step towards the decarbonization of the rail industry with zero direct carbon emissions.
Despite the delays caused for its commissioning, the government’s 7 billion euros stimulus package for the hydrogen industry could well speed things up. “We talked about it last year at this time, so we lost a year. We’re more on 2022-2023. The contract will be finalized quickly,” assured Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Alstom’s CEO, on Europe 1.
The first hydrogen train prototypes will appear in 2023, in four regions Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand Est and Occitanie. By the time they enter service in 2025, several components will have to be built, such as fuel cells, hydrogen recharging stations and electrolysis stations (hydrogen from electricity).
The French group has also received orders for 41 regional trains in the Hamburg and Frankfurt regions of Germany, which are scheduled to enter commercial service starting in 2022. “Germany has done this: our train has covered more than 200,000 km and is running very well. We look forward to it coming to France,” said the Alstom boss.
The main interest of the hydrogen train is its autonomy, which allows its operation on non-electrified lines. There will be 12 new hydrogen trains in France, spread over four regions:
– 3 trainsets are planned in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes : on the Moulins – Clermont-Ferrand – Brioude line and on the Lyon to Clermont-Ferrand line
– 3 trainsets in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté : on the Dijon to Avallon and Dijon to Corbigny lines
– 3 trainsets are planned in the Grand-Est region : on the Strasbourg to Niederbronn-les-Bains lin
– 3 trainsets in Occitania: on the line from Toulouse to Luchon
Germany, the first country to integrate the hydrogen train since 2018, has welcomed the hydrogen train in the Hamburg region with the circulation of the Coradia iLint model from Alstom.
This leading position allowed the French giant to win a 360 million euros contract in May 2020 to deliver 27 trains to the Frankfurt region starting in 2022.
In addition, the Netherlands also recently expressed its desire to integrate this train into the Groningen-Leeuwarden line from the first quarter of 2020 during the Climate Summit.
This project is an opportunity for companies to invest in a promising field. We have several players who would like to take part and who have contributed to this market.
In France, large groups such as Alstom, SNCF, Air Liquide, Engie, EDF or Total are considering developing the hydrogen sector.
In addition, there are SMEs at a more or less advanced stage such as: McPhy Energy, Powidian, SymbioFCell, Areva H2Gen, Atawey, Pragma etc…
In Europe (Germany, Netherlands) this initiative has brought together several multinationals such as : Alstom, Engie, Arriva and Prorail.
Finally, the French Minister of Ecological Transition, announced on February 21, the inauguration of the Alstom plant in Tarbes, France.
Germany also already has a similar plant in Salzgitter in Lower Saxony, which is running and has which has 27 trains in its construction program and 14 trains in its construction program for the Frankfurt region. This will be the first commercial line to be operated 100% by hydrogen trains, a worldwide revolution.
Demand is pouring in from all over Europe, says Stefan Schrank, project manager: “The trials we are conducting in other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Poland, France and all the countries we have been to, have at least enabled local authorities and local operators to see that this new technology works, and that it offers a good level of reliability and availability.”
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