Photo credit (banner): Alstom_Coradia Polyvalent pour Regiolis

A pioneering order for hydrogen trains

In a first for France, four regions have ordered dual-mode TER trainsets powered by electricity and hydrogen. It’s a major step towards greener rail transport and net zero direct carbon emissions.

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It’s official. After many months of hard work, Alstom has received its first order to manufacture Régiolis H2 trainsets. And the customers are four pioneering French regions: Auvergne Rhône-Alpes, Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Grand-Est and Occitanie.

In our current fleet of TER regional trains, diesel still accounts for 26% of energy consumption and 77% of CO2 emissions. That’s why we’re investing in zero direct carbon technologies to make our rolling stock greener. The new hydrogen trains will put these investments to work, replacing diesel-powered locomotives and multiple units1 on TER lines with no electricity.

At SNCF, we’ve spent years working with manufacturers to develop greener TER trains. The 12 hydrogen-powered trainsets from Alstom, set to begin commercial operation in late 2025, are central to this effort.

Learn more about TER

  • 12

    Régiolis H2 trainsets ordered

  • 231

    million euros is the total cost of the project

SNCF s’engage - le train à hydrogène

An ambitious plan for cleaner regional rail

One of the biggest advantages of hydrogen trains is that they can run on their own power—which means they can operate on non-electrified regional lines.

The new order covers 12 H2 trainsets:

  • 3 trainsets for the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, serving the Moulins–Clermont-Ferrand–Brioude line and the Lyon–Roanne–Clermont-Ferrand line
  • 3 trainsets for Burgundy-Franche-Comté, serving the Dijon–Laroche-Migennes–Auxerre–Avallon line and the Dijon–Laroche-Migennes–Auxerre–Corbigny line
  • 3 trainsets for the Grand-Est region, serving the Strasbourg–Haguenau–Niederbronn-les-Bains line
  • 3 trainsets for the Occitanie region, serving the Toulouse–Montréjeau–Luchon line

These hydrogen-powered TERs are slated to make their first trial runs in late 2023 or early 2024.

 

Hydrogen is now becoming a practical way to transition SNCF Group’s regional rail operations to green energy.

Christophe Fanichet, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, SNCF Voyageurs

How hydrogen trains work

In hydrogen trains, conventional diesel engines are replaced with fuel cells, batteries and hydrogen tanks—a traction system that emits no direct greenhouse gases.

In the fuel cell, hydrogen from tanks on the train’s roof combines with oxygen in the air to produce electricity, which is stored in the batteries and used to power the train. And there’s only one waste product: water.

The new dual-mode hydrogen trains will have a range of 600 km, and carry 220 passengers at speeds of up to 160 km/h.

Investments by source

  • 215

    million euros from French regions

  • 8

    million euros from SNCF

  • 8

    million euros from Alstom

  • 47

    million euros contributed to the regions by the French State

Playing an active role in the energy transition

Our goal is to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, we’re working to cut transport emissions 30% from 2015 levels by 2030.

To reach these goals, we’ll take action in three key areas:

  • use less energy—install energy meters on locomotives, help train drivers optimize their driving technique, and motivate employees to save energy through a dedicated platform
  • make operations less carbon-intensive—install solar panels on SNCF sites, operate hybrid TERs, use biofuels and develop hydrogen and battery-powered trains
  • advocate for clean mobility—promote rail travel by reminding everyone that trains are France’s greenest transport option, accounting for only 0.4% of the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions

1 A locomotive’s primary purpose is to pull a train, though it may also supply heating or electricity. It has no payload of its own. By contrast, multiple units are self-propelled trainsets composed of one or more carriages joined together. Source: Wikipedia.