French trains to go green with order for hydrogen engines

France is joining the hydrogen train revolution, the head of state rail operator SNCF said on Thursday, announcing an order for 15 emissions-free regional trains to replace polluting diesel models.

French trains to go green with order for hydrogen engines
French train operator SNCF wants to replace all its diesel engines. Photo: AFP

Hydrogen trains are equipped with fuel cells that produce electricity through a combination of hydrogen and oxygen.

Germany was the first country to roll out the technology a year ago, deploying two trains built by French TGV-maker Alstom on a 100km stretch of rail in the country's north. 

Guillaume Pepy, the CEO OF French train operator SNCF. Photo: AFP

“We hope that in a few weeks… we will sign an order to build 15 hydrogen trains,” SNCF chief executive Guillaume Pepy told France's BFM news channel, adding that he hoped the trains would be in service in “about two years.”

While hydrogen trains are far greener than diesel models, until now France has had a problem with obtaining “clean” hydrogen, with 95 percent of the hydrogen used in the country obtained from natural gas.

Alstom has proposed to adapt the model adopted by Germany for the SNCF by using use a mix of electricity and hydrogen.

Pepy said that he aimed to get the French government, SNCF, Alstom and six regions interested in having eco-friendly trains crisscross their territory around a table “in a few weeks” to finalise the Alstom order.

Pepy said the SNCF's objective was “to have not a single diesel (train) left on French railroads in 15 years.

Apart from hydrogen, French railways also plan to replace some all-diesel models with new diesel-electric hybrid trains in the northeast, west and south of the country in 2021.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Massive hornet-trapping campaign begins in south west France

Across south west France trapping campaigns have begun in an attempt to control the numbers of dangerous Asian hornets.

Massive hornet-trapping campaign begins in south west France

Trapping campaigns are organised annually at this time of year, as the weather begins to get warmer and queens begin to emerge from hibernation.

And the Charente-Maritime town of Royan Atlantique, on France’s west coast, is leading the way, as the below video shows.

Experts say that now is the time to begin using the traps, as catching queen hornets in the process of building their nests will lead to far fewer insects later in the year. 

Some 2,000 traps are installed in and around Royan this year, including 300 that were distributed to householders in the week of Valentine’s Day. 

Once installed, the traps can capture several dozen insects at a time.

In order to capture a maximum of hornet queens, traps should be installed between mid-February and mid-May. Especially since during this period, these predators end up coming out of their hibernation.

It is believed Asian hornets arrived in France around 2004. They have now spread nationwide.

Although their venom is not more powerful than that of normal bees or wasps, they are known to be more aggressive towards humans, and their stings can cause anaphylactic shock in allergic people.

The hornets also damage beehives and kill bees, damaging honey stocks and destroying the native ecosystem.