Local engineers will dream up tomorrow’s hydrogen trains

French rail giant Alstom announced yesterday the establishment of an innovation center in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville near Montreal, which will be tasked with developing hydrogen trains for America.

• Also read: Alstom wants to make rail transport greener

• Also read: World consumption of natural gas severely affected by the war in Ukraine

The challenge of making rail travel greener in North America is colossal: the area has no fewer than 140,000 miles of rails, on which 27,000 diesel-powered trains account for … 99%.

“We believe hydrogen has potential over long distances and for large capacities. The batteries work well on trams, on short journeys where you can charge often,” said Michael Keroullé, Alstom’s CEO for the Americas, yesterday.

The overhead electrification chosen for CDPQ Infra’s Metropolitan Express Network (REM) is too expensive for many applications, Mr Keroullé specified.

Hydrogen raises high hopes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

A train in service in Europe

Alstom has a head start: the company has developed the first-ever hydrogen train to enter service anywhere in the world. He has been driving in Germany since 2018.

On the other hand, know-how about this technology is rather rare on this side of the Atlantic.

“Expertise doesn’t exist in North America today. There are a few experts, but we don’t have any Swimming pool of resources that know hydrogen,” admitted Michael Keroullé.

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The director still hopes to find 80 engineers with knowledge in the fields of hydrogen, batteries and hybrid propulsion in Quebec. Your task will be to adapt European products to the specific needs of the American markets or to develop them from scratch.

“We have to admit engineers [québécois] to acquire the know-how that we have developed elsewhere […] and see how adaptable it is […] adapt to local realities,” explained Mr. Keroullé.

The production of “green” hydrogen and its large-scale distribution are among the challenges facing the industry.

Alstom has received no public support for its new innovation center, which was the subject of a commitment when it announced its acquisition of Bombardier Transportation in February 2020.

However, the company has entered discussions with Quebec for possible support for the detailed design and construction of future low-emission trains.

Michael Keroullé also assured that Alstom has made good on its promise to move its American headquarters to Quebec, previously located in New York. However, three of Alstom Americas’ fifteen senior executives continue to work in the Big Apple.

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