We spend 60 seconds with Henri Poupart-Lafarge, CEO at Alstom.

Why is your company a part of the Hydrogen Council? Why do you believe that this initiative is so important?

Alstom was among the founding members of the Hydrogen Council because we are convinced that hydrogen is a real game-changer in the transition towards a clean mobility system. The natural disasters we have witnessed  recent weeks have clearly shown that we cannot wait any longer to act to prevent or mitigate climate change.

Railway is by far already the cleanest transport mode, but Alstom wants to go further and has the ambition to reduce by 20% CO2 emissions on its products and operations by 2020, including on electric trains. The development of hydrogen regional trains is part of this strategy to provide a zero emission alternative to diesel for railway operations.

The Hydrogen Council is an excellent platform to continue raising awareness amongst decision-makers, NGOs and the general population on the benefits of hydrogen, the technological progress made by the industry and ask them to take the necessary measures to support the implementation of these technologies.

What are your company’s Hydrogen-related milestones for this year?

Alstom is currently finalising the test campaign of its hydrogen–fuelled passenger train Coradia iLint on the German network in order to obtain homologation in Germany.  The train has now reached 140km/h on test tracks. We are very pleased to announce the signature of a first contract for the delivery of 14 Coradia iLint trains in the region of Lower Saxony, Germany. This train is a true revolution in railway passenger transport and brings a substantial contribution to CO2 emission savings. We are very proud of this innovation and look forward to transporting our first passengers in Germany next year with the first two trains we have manufactured.

What, in your opinion, is one of the biggest challenges facing Hydrogen technology right now? How does your organisation intend to deal with this challenge?

Today hydrogen technology is not a technical challenge anymore. The building blocks are fully mature as decades of research have already gone into it and its safety has been established in numerous experiments.

In railways we still have to prove in real life operation that hydrogen trains are as competitive as diesel, from an operational and economic standpoint. The difficulty there is that replacing diesel trains with hydrogen trains requires investments in new infrastructure facilities, which requires a strong coordination between public transport authorities, railway undertakings and infrastructure managers. The added value of hydrogen, zero emissions, does not necessarily translate into more tickets being sold – so one has to find a way to address this initial extra cost of the transition to hydrogen.

On the other hand because we do have public authorities involved we can avoid the issue of stranded investments faced in other transport modes. In Germany, where we are launching our Coradia iLint hydrogen train, we are moving forward step-by-step and hand in hand with the different regional authorities interested by this product. For us the next step is to secure a large scale demonstration, with a fleet of hydrogen trains.

If you could communicate one hydrogen-related message to the general public, what would it be?

Hydrogen is one of the cleanest energy source, perfectly safe, available and an ideal alternative energy source for rail transportation. Hydrogen is no far future, but already today! It will contribute to improve substantially the life of the next generations. Go for hydrogen now!

When we speak again in 2018 and are looking back at the Hydrogen Council work this year, what would you like to be able to say?

I would like to underline and greet the growing visibility of the Hydrogen Council, gained through different initiatives undertaken by the Council in 2017, such as the conferences organised within the World Economic Forum at Davos or during the COP23 climate conference in Bonn. The growing membership of the Hydrogen Council joined by more international companies is also a direct consequence of this intense work conducted by the Council to raise awareness on hydrogen technologies.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.