Alstom and Engie want to accelerate rail decarbonization

The two French groups have announced a partnership to develop new types of locomotives.

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Powerful freight locomotives will be powered by a fuel cell that runs on hydrogen. As Raphaël Bernardelli, vice-president of Alstom, explains, “Ihe idea is to optimize the use of existing electric locomotives and kill diesel by avoiding the consumption of millions of liters per year for freight transport merchandise.” With a range of a few hundred kilometers, fuel cells will eventually replace diesel on non-electrified roads, which generally represents between 15 and 20% of journeys today. Knowing that half of the European network is still not electrified.

Today, the French group markets hydrogen trains but for passenger transport: 41 trains have been ordered by two German Länder and experiments are taking place in Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and France. In the partnership for freight locomotives discussed here, Alstom brings the mastered technology of the high power fuel cell system. For its part, Engie will provide renewable hydrogen to power the locomotives responsible for pulling freight trains of up to 2,000 tonnes, which is much more complicated than passenger transport.

The Alstom-Engie joint venture is aiming for commissioning by the end of 2025. An ambitious objective when we know that the SNCF promises the end of diesel locomotives for 2035 and its German counterpart, Deutsche Bahn, for 2040.

The objective will impose a ramp-up of production. The development will be entrusted mainly to French sites of Alstom including those of Belfort (Burgundy-Franche-Comté region), Tarbes (Occitanie) and Aix-en-Provence (PACA) in particular for research and development.

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