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The race for hydrogen shunting locomotives. The French are getting into the game

The race for hydrogen shunting locomotives. The French are getting into the game
photo: Captrain France/Photo Illustration / Captrain France
15 / 05 / 2022

HDF Energy and Captrain France, a subsidiary of SNCF, signed a partnership agreement for the development of hydrogen locomotives in order to provide a decarbonization solution for French and European rail freight. The first step in the collaboration between HDF Energy and Captrain will be the launch of the HyShunt project: a retrofit project of a locomotive currently powered by a diesel engine. With a power of about 700 kW, this locomotive will be retrofitted with a decarbonized electric propulsion system powered by green or low-carbon hydrogen, via a high-powered fuel cell system manufactured and integrated by HDF Energy.

Currently, rail freight accounts for only 9% of goods transported in France, compared to 17.3% in the EU. The French government wishes to revitalize this mode of transport, which is less polluting and less dangerous than road transport. The government's goal is to double the modal share of rail freight by 2030 and then increase it to 25% by 2050. With only 58% of the French rail network electrified, the development of dual-mode electric and hydrogen solutions will enable the entire network and industrial sites to be covered with zero-emission solutions. The aim of the project is to demonstrate that retrofitting a locomotive can achieve strong decarbonization objectives for rail freight.

The HyShunt project is a virtuous and frugal project that favours the reuse of existing equipment. Captrain France will provide a locomotive built in the 1950s for the project. It will be upgraded and its life span extended.

Damien Havard, Chairman and CEO of HDF Energy, said: "We are very pleased to unveil today this ambitious project to develop an essential solution for decarbonizing rail transport. In our strategic roadmap, we announced our ambition to seize opportunities to accelerate the development of the hydrogen industry worldwide. Today we are demonstrating our ability to accelerate the movement through this partnership, which will enable us to combine the unique technological know-how of Captain France in the field of heavy rail mobility and HDF Energy in the field of high-powered fuel cells."

Stéphane Derlincourt, President of Captrain France, said: "I am delighted to sign this partnership with HDF, whose level of expertise is unique. At Captrain France, we are very enthusiastic about the idea of developing the very first zero-emission locomotive for our customers' industrial sites.''