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Hydrogen rail mobility in central France: The first hydrogen passenger trainsets soon on the rails

Hydrogen rail mobility in central France: The first hydrogen passenger trainsets soon on the rails
photo: Alstom SA - visualisation/Hydrogen rail mobility in central France: The first hydrogen passenger trainsets soon on the rails
07 / 03 / 2021

The Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region and the SNCF TER trains will run three trainsets around City of Auxerre from 2023. Hydrogen rail mobility was in France limited to a fine theoretical idea so far. Now it is finally moving into the concrete project stage.

The regional authorities announced their intention to buy three regional hydrogen trainsets from Alstom. It is becoming the first French region to place an order for trains using this emission-free technology. Thanks to a fuel cell and a high-pressure tank of hydrogen, it would be possible to produce electricity directly on board the trainset.

Each of the trains is made up of four cars that can carry up to 220 passengers, at 160 kilometers/hour, with a range of 400 to 600 kilometers. They will operate in "dual-mode", they can also be connected to a catenary when the track is electrified. They are intended to run on the non-electrified line in Laroche-Migennes-Auxerre-Corbigny-Avallon line, in the Yonne region. The first experimental runs will take place in 2023, and commercial journeys are expected to start in 2024.

The machines will cost the Region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté 51.9 million euros or 17.3 million per train. However, the part of the costs linked to the development of the technology is borne by the French state. In the end, the region would have to spend 14 million euros per train, including 4.5 million for H2 traction alone.

This project is part of a proactive policy in this area, which commits 100 million euros to a long-term hydrogen plan. The three trains are integrated into an ecosystem installed in the Auxerre conurbation: purchase of five H2 buses in the public transport network, and above all, creation by EDF of a local hydrogen station, with a production capacity of 400 kilos per day.

The key advantage of the City of Auxerre program of 8.5 million euros is that the hydrogen will be produced by electrolysis (it is separated from the water molecule), using local renewable energies: wind turbines and dams in the Morvan Regional Natural Park (Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan), which is a protected area of woodlands, lakes, and traditional farmland in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of central France.

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