Driverless train technology holds enormous promise. With it, we can carry more passengers and freight, deliver better on-time performance, reduce energy consumption and increase cost-efficiency, even while meeting our high bar for passenger safety.
We’re already working with the Railenium Test and Research Centre to develop fully automated trains for SNCF Fret and TER regional rail. Testing began in 2020, and we aim to begin operating the new trains by 2023.
TER: Greener regional trains
Within our TER fleet, diesel still accounts for 25% of energy consumption and 75% of CO2 emissions—but we’re working to change that. How? By replacing diesel engines with green traction technologies and helping regional authorities acquire eco-friendly trains that run on hybrid systems, hydrogen, biofuel, batteries and biogas.
Hybrid trains—diesel plus batteries or catenary plus batteries—have more than one energy source. And thanks to their ability to recover, store and re-use braking energy, they can also run for short distances on battery power alone.
Testing on the energy storage prototype for our first hybrid TER was completed in September 2020, with the aim of replacing half of the fleet’s diesel engines with batteries.
Rolling stock manufacturer Alstom is now developing France’s first hybrid multiple unit with financial support from four French regions: Grand Est, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Centre-Val de Loire and Occitanie. Testing on this experimental hybrid TER—a modified Régiolis trainset—is set to begin in 2021, with rollout on the rail network slated for 2023. The new units should cut energy consumption by 20%.
energy saved with our hybrid TER
We expect our first hydrogen-powered trainsets to pull into stations in 2025, and we recently reached another milestone toward zero-emission hydrogen technology. Four pioneering French regions—Burgundy-Franche-Comté, Grand-Est, Auvergne Rhône-Alpes and Occitanie—have now placed an order with Alstom to build 14 Régiolis H2 trainsets.
This revolutionary train features on-board hydrogen tanks and two fuel cells on its roof. In the fuel cells, the hydrogen mixes with oxygen in the air, generating electricity to power the train. Once in service, this dual-mode train will run on both catenaries and hydrogen, reaching a top speed of 160 km/h and carrying up to 220 passengers. Operating on its own power, its range will be around 600 km.
Since 2018, SNCF Group has been working with French regional authorities to shape new hydrogen-powered rail ecosystems for the future. Testing of the new hydrogen TER is set to begin in 2023.
greenhouse gas/pollutant emissions from the hydrogen TER
If we replaced diesel with biofuel in our TER regional trains, we could move away from fossil fuels quickly, without changing the power system in our existing fleet. That’s why we’ve partnered with the Normandy Region to experiment with commercial operation of trains running on B100 biofuel, made with 100% French-grown rapeseed. Between now and June 2021, 15 Régiolis trainsets on the Paris-Granville line will participate in the tests. The results will help us decide whether or not to expand use of B100 to other vehicles.
Even before this trial began, a Régiolis engine was tested with rapeseed-based biofuel on an engine bench at the French Institute for Petroleum and New Energies (IFPEN). Results were promising. Switching to greener fuel reduced NOx and particulate emissions and cut field-to-rail greenhouse gas emissions by 60%.
less greenhouse gas emissions with our biofuel TER
Our battery-powered TER project aims to replace diesel engines with lithium batteries—an economical, emission-free solution for operating on non-electrified segments of the French rail network. In 2022, we’ll convert five high-capacity, dual-mode multiple units (built by Bombardier for catenary and diesel) into fully electric dual-mode trainsets that can run on catenary and battery power (BEMUs). The new trains will charge their batteries primarily from catenary lines and in electrified stations, but they’ll also recover and store braking energy, reducing consumption by 5%-20%. On battery power alone, they’ll be able to cover 80 km of non-electrified line.
This project was developed by SNCF Group and Bombardier with five French regions—Hauts-de-France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Sud—and the contract should be signed in early 2021.
On batteries alone, our new dual-mode TER will have a range of 80 km
Our new, energy-efficient TGV M is packed with high-performance features: it’s 97% recyclable and more aerodynamic, and can adjust power consumption based on the number of passengers aboard. Thanks to these innovations, it will consume 20% less energy than existing trainsets, and its carbon footprint will be 37% smaller.
M for modularity
Another advantage of this innovative new design is its modularity. The number of coaches can be adjusted, and a first-class section can be converted to second-class (or vice versa) in a single day. The TGV M can also be used by our low-cost OUIGO service, and with a capacity of 740 passengers—20% more than our existing double-decker trainsets—it maximizes usable area, giving it the most competitive cost per seat on the European high-speed market.
Coming to your station in 2024
In July 2018, we placed a firm order with Alstom for 100 trainsets worth nearly €3 billion, and on 16 July 2020, we inaugurated the TGV M’s outer shell at Alstom’s factory in La Rochelle, kicking off a historic innovation partnership with the French train manufacturer.
We expect the first TGV M trainsets to arrive in stations by 2024, with the rest rolled out gradually over the next ten years.