HDF Energy and Captrain France to decarbonize rail freight with hydrogen locomotives

In order to provide a decarbonization solution for French and European rail freight, Hydrogène de France and Captrain France, a subsidiary of SNCF, signed a partnership agreement for the development of hydrogen locomotives.

The HyShunt project, a retrofit project of a locomotive currently powered by a diesel engine, will be the first step in HDF Energy and Captrain’s collaboration. 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, with a power output of around 700 kW.

In France today, rail freight accounts for only 9% of all goods transported, compared to 17.3% in the European Union. The French government wants to revitalize this mode of transportation, which is cleaner and safer than driving. The government wants to double rail freight’s modal share by 2030 and then increase it to 25% by 2050. With only 58 percent of the French rail network electrified, the development of dual-mode electric and hydrogen solutions will enable zero-emission solutions to be implemented across the entire network and industrial sites. The project’s goal is to show that retrofitting a locomotive can help achieve significant decarbonization goals for rail freight.

HDF Energy will be able to pursue the development of high-powered fuel cell systems for rail mobility as a result of this project. The project’s complementary nature enhances French industrial know-how in the service of decarbonizing freight transportation. Finally, HyShunt is assisting in the development of a new field of expertise and associated jobs.

Furthermore, the HyShunt project is a virtuous and cost-effective initiative that prioritizes the reuse of existing equipment. For the project, Captrain France will provide a locomotive from the 1950s. It will be upgraded and its life expectancy will be increased.

The hydrogen ecosystem being developed in Moselle, in the Grand-Est region, includes the first French hydrogen shunting locomotive. The Grande Région Hydrogen initiative, the first cross-border Hydrogen Valley, will include French, German, and Luxembourgish industrial partners in this locomotive retrofit project. The high-power fuel cell will be manufactured at the HDF Energy plant in Blanquefort, which is scheduled to open in 2023.

Anela Dokso

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