French rail operator SNCF Voyageurs and manufacturer Alstom have unveiled their first battery-powered Regional Train (TER) as part of a project to modify five existing dual-mode trainsets to become 100% electric.

The €40m ($42.4m) project from SNCF began with an order first placed in 2021 and will see the diesel engines currently used in the five trainsets, some of which have been in operation for two decades, replaced with batteries.

Alstom France president Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud said: “Decarbonising mobility is at the heart of Alstom’s strategy and the battery solution completes our range of relevant solutions, along with hydrogen and hybridisation, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from mobility.

“In this respect, we are proud to be able to present the first battery-powered TER, developed in collaboration with SNCF Voyageurs and with the support of the five partner regions.”

A picture of the side of the SNCF Alstom train
The first battery-powered train from Alstom and SNCF. Credit: Alstom.

Alongside Nouvelle-Aquitane, which will receive the first train, the future retrofitted sets will be delivered to the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Hauts-de-France, Occitanie Pyrénées-Méditerranée and Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions to get the model authorised for commercial service by December 2024. 

A dynamic and static development phase, up to 60km/h, for the first train has already been completed at Alstom’s Crespin site, with trials showing that the battery charging and discharging system is working correctly.

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The next stage of testing at the Centre d’essais ferroviaires at Bar-le-Duc will work on validation and certification up to 160km/h by testing the train’s new traction modes under operating conditions.

The unveiling of the first of the battery-powered trains, which have been co-financed by SNCF, Alstom and the five regions, comes soon after SNCF published its white paper with the French Railway Industries Association on the country’s rail industry’s decarbonisation ambitions.

That paper highlighted the use of innovative rolling stock solutions as a way of advancing the industry’s goals, as well as the creation of a central body to monitor the sector’s progress.