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Hydrogen-powered train takes to the tracks in France

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The world’s first hydrogen-powered train – developed by Alstom – is being showcased before France’s top decision-makers and members of the rail community.

The Coradia iLint had its first demonstration on the tracks of the Centre d’Essais Ferroviaires in Valenciennes (in the north of France) in the presence of Jean-Baptiste Djebarri, French minister delegate to the minister of ecological transition, responsible for transport, and Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, president of Alstom France.

The stakeholder presentations are part of the national energy transition ambition, which seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution. They are also part of the French Recovery Plan and of the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) launched by the European Union in 2020.

A driver’s eye view of the Valenciennes test track.

Alstom has been working on regional hydrogen fuel cell trains since 2013. The first completely hydrogen-powered iLint models entered service in Germany in 2018, and since then 41 trainsets have been ordered by two German states and successful trials have taken place in Austria, in the Netherlands, in Sweden and now in France. Meanwhile, in Italy, the operator FNM confirmed an order for 14 hydrogen-powered trains at the end of 2020.

The train is as silent as an electric train and emits only water. It is designed for use on non-electrified lines. Demonstrated in a configuration used in Germany, it will need adjusting for use in France.

In 2021, France’s SNCF ordered 12 Coradia Polyvalent dual-mode trains (electric/catenary and hydrogen/fuel cell traction) for four French regions (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche Comté, Grand Est and Occitanie).

Alstom has said that France plays an important part in the development of their hydrogen trains, with the traction units developed in Tarbes, and the recently acquired Helion Hydrogen Power being based Aix-en-Provence.

Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, Alstom.

Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, president of Alstom France, said: “Today, Alstom’s ambition is to accelerate its hydrogen strategy and to continue to propose and develop innovative greening solutions.

“We want to provide public authorities and operators with relevant technical and economic solutions in the context of the phase-out of diesel. In this way, we want to contribute to French and European industrial leadership in this technology of the future.”

A trial of the Coradia iLint train on the French rail network will be held in 2022 on the ToursLoches line, a small local line in the Centre-Val de Loire region.

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