Alstom releases first results from demonstration of hydrogen train in North America

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Alstom has announced the first results of North America’s first demonstration of hydrogen-powered trains, with its Coradia iLint carrying more than 10,000 passengers, over 130 trips spanning 10,660km in Quebec this summer from mid-June to the end of September.

According to Alstom, the demonstration saved its railway partner an estimated 8,400 liters of diesel and averted 22 tons of CO2 emissions compared to the diesel trains that normally service this route.

Moreover, Alstom and its partners welcomed 34 commercial, governmental and regulatory delegations from all over North America looking to witness this hydrogen-propulsion technology and capture the requirements for wider implementation across North America.

“This summer, we demonstrated that hydrogen trains can be an attractive, safe and viable alternative to diesel on non-electrified lines and that we can do it right here in North America,” said Michael Keroullé, president of Alstom in the Americas.

“Alstom has clearly taken the lead in supporting rail operators and authorities in their environmental transformation, thanks to its unmatched portfolio of green solutions and its ability to bring together the best players in the industry.”

Only 1% of the North American rail network is electrified today. To decarbonize the rail sector in time to meet national, provincial, and state-level climate goals, there must be significant investments in track electrification along with the adoption of alternative green traction solutions, including battery-powered and hydrogen-powered trains.

Alstom conducted this first-time-in-America demonstration as a proof of concept in real operating conditions for hydrogen trains, which bring multiple benefits, including no carbon emissions from the propulsion system, quieter operations, and a greater operational autonomy before refueling than battery-powered trains.

According to Alstom, other key takeaways from the demonstration included: 

  • Hydrogen-powered trains are safe and reliable – if a robust hydrogen ecosystem is available to provide fuel.
  • Hydrogen-powered mobility requires an agile and reliable hydrogen fuel production and distribution system. North America is taking the first steps toward building this kind of hydrogen ecosystem. Continued investment and commitment will be needed to scale.
  • To unlock the benefits of hydrogen-powered trains, North American decision-makers will need to adapt regulatory standards that were created before hydrogen was conceived for this purpose.
  • As this ecosystem matures, it will create new jobs requiring new skillsets around the operation and maintenance of a hydrogen fuel network, hydrogen-powered traction systems and hydrogen fuel cells.

Alstom is partnering with the Hydrogen Research Institute of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières to analyze the results of the demonstration project and will issue a final report for public authorities in early 2024.

The demonstration project was made possible thanks to a partnership between Alstom, which supplied and maintained the trains, Train de Charlevoix/Réseau Charlevoix who made their teams and tracks available, Harnois Énergies, which provided the right amount of green hydrogen at the expected pressure, HTEC, which implemented the mobile hydrogen charging solution and Accelera by Cummins, which supplied and maintained the fuel cell during the pilot. The project was also authorized and supported by the Government of Quebec.