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SNCF: turning the rail system green

The Grand Est, Nouvelle Aquitaine, and Occitanie regions along with SNCF and Alstom have joined forces to create the first hybrid TER. On 3 October, they launched tests of this train designed to consume less energy.

The SNCF Group has joined the race to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and counter the effects of global warming. One of its research programmes now in progress is aimed at decreasing the energy consumption of TER diesel rolling stock by 20%. Operational tests on specially equipped Alstom Régiolis trains will begin 2021.

Although trains are already one of the cleanest modes of transport, SNCF is stepping up its efforts to support the energy transition by focusing on diesel trains, which haul about 50% of passenger traffic. Diesel traction has high environmental impact, as it currently accounts for about 60% of the Group’s total GHG emissions.

A first step has been taken with the introduction of bi-mode commuter trains, which can operate with diesel traction on non-electrified lines and with catenary-supplied electrical power where available. Technological innovation will bring further progress with on-board energy storage systems such as batteries.

The hybrid Régiolis trains will be able to run on several energy sources – electricity from catenaries, diesel, or battery-stored energy – depending on the situation. The aim is to put the first hybrid TER into commercial service in 2021 in order to validate the operational characteristics and performance of this solution. Full-scale deployment is planned for 2022.

How does the hybrid TER work?

The hybridisation concept applied in the bi-mode Régiolis consists in replacing half of a train’s diesel engines with high-capacity, lithium-ion batteries. These batteries recover the train braking energy, most of which is currently dissipated as heat, then store and use it to supply the energy needed to drive the train.

This project is the outcome of several years of joint studies and cooperation on technical questions related to sustainable development.