HDF Energy and Captrain France to develop zero-emission hydrogen shunting locomotive

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Hydrogène de France (HDF Energy) and Captrain France, a subsidiary of French railway company SNCF, have signed a partnership agreement for the development of hydrogen locomotives 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.

Today, rail freight accounts for only 9% of goods transported in France, compared to 17.3% in the European Union. 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.

This project will also enable HDF Energy to pursue the development of high-powered fuel cell systems dedicated to rail mobility. The complementary nature of the two partners in the project enhances French industrial know-how in the service of decarbonizing freight transport. Lastly, HyShunt is helping to create a new sector of expertise and associated jobs.

This locomotive retrofit project will also be part of the Grande Région Hydrogen initiative, the first cross-border Hydrogen Valley, involving French, German and Luxembourgish industrial partners. The high-power fuel cell will be produced in the future HDF Energy plant in Blanquefort which will be operational in 2023.

Damien Havard, chairman and CEO of HDF Energy, said, “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, added, "At Captrain France, we are very enthusiastic about the idea of developing the very first zero-emission locomotive for our customers' industrial sites. The urgent concerns about global warming are generating adaptations on all sides and freight transport is no exception. This locomotive will be completely innovative and equipped with future-oriented technology. Thanks to it, no more greenhouse gases, which are harmful to our health and our planet.”