News JVTech The first hydrogen train is in France and it is already arriving at the station, what future for public transport?
Published on 02/02/2023 at 17:55
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Some have been waiting for it for a very long time, the first hydrogen train in France is here. The good news is that it is made by Alstom, a French company. An ambitious project in the heart of the country.
The hydrogen train is already at the station
The first hydrogen train, Coradia iLint, has just embarked its first passengers during a public experiment February 1. A news that will be good for residents who are used to taking their TER which runs on diesel.
The whole problem is that part of the rail network is not electrified. Today when we think train, we think electric. But the president of Alstom, Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, specifies that 50% of the rails are not connected in electricity. The only solution so far was diesel.
The other resulting reason is the astronomical cost of electrifying the entire network. In the end, it costs much less to make a hydrogen train, rather than a complete network. It also offers more flexibility to manage the lines and allows to have a lower maintenance cost.
A major national hydrogen train project
The SNCF specifies that “diesel still represents 26% of the energy consumed by TER and is responsible for 77% of CO2 emissions.” The challenge is therefore very important and will initially serve four regions: Auvergne Rhône-Alpes, Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Grand Est and Occitanie. Each region will be entitled to three trains.
The first tests are currently being carried out on the Tours-Loches line. Every day more than 8000 passengers use it. The experiment will last three days and the train will not be borrowable (except for the inauguration on February 1) and will not cross any passenger or freight trains.
SNCF’s plans are to put into circulation these TER by 2025 ideally. But it looks like we’re talking more than 4-5 years from today. We could therefore see a delay and a first official release in 2027-2028.
It will therefore be necessary to be patient to finally see the network become cleaner. The question of the production of hydrogen still arises. There are two ways to produce it: by oil extraction or by electrolysis. The second solution consumes a lot of electricity, but allows energy to be stored and transported. The hydrocarbon method is highly polluting and amounts to using diesel directly.
The train itself is powered by a fuel cell that supplies power to the electric motors. It is therefore a classic TER with a hydrogen tank and an integrated generator. SNCF intends to make it the technology of tomorrow in all its trains not connected to the electricity grid.
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