Alstom Is A Pacesetter In Transport Markets, Using Low-Carbon Options

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hydrogen train
(Hydrogen fuel cell locomotive mock up. Credit: Alstom)

Alstom SA is a French multinational that develops market mobility solutions such as passenger transportation, locomotives, and high-speed trains. It has 150,000 vehicles in commercial service worldwide, attesting to its expertise in project management, innovation, design, and technology. It prides itself on low-carbon options. It operates at 250 sites in 70 countries. 

With populations increasing in urban centers, transportation solutions are urgent — primarily to address climate change, congestion, and pollution. “It is our mission to support the transition towards global sustainable transport systems that are inclusive, environmentally friendly, safe, and efficient while implementing a socially responsible business model,” the company says. “On a global scale, it is all the more concerning since the world population will have risen to 9.7 billion by 2050, which will have the consequence of at least doubling traffic worldwide.”

Indeed, transportation accounts for more than a quarter of global energy consumption. The difficulty is apparent: what is the most practical way to reduce emissions to improve transformation options during a period of high demand? And the answers are just as clear, although electrification and mass transportation is easier said than done. To that end, Alstom is committed to carbon neutrality and sustainable mobility. 

The French government is phasing out diesel trains by 2035, compelling Alstom to consider battery-electric propulsion. Given its existing assets, the company has the inside track to get the job done. For example, Irish Rail picked Alstom to deliver 13 battery-electric trains by 2025. They can travel up to 80 kilometers and have access to fast-charging stations.

“Highly efficient electric rail vehicles are already running with zero well-to-wheel emissions when supplied with renewable electricity. Emissions from diesel rail operations can already be avoided for passenger transport using battery and hydrogen solutions; these technologies are also now being developed for freight applications,” the company says.

How is Alstom reducing carbon and improving efficiencies in its operations? 

But it is also focused on reducing emissions during its operations. Alstom aims to cut its CO2 emissions from Scope 1 & 2 by improving energy intensity, developing on-site green electricity production, and supplying all sites with renewable sources. The companys net-zero targets will gradually be expanded” to cover its supply chain or Scope 3 emissions. 

To reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions, the company commits to using 100% renewable energy by 2025. In 2021, the number is 42%. Alstom also purchased more than 13 million kWh of Renewable Energy Certificates from leading energy and energy-related service provider Direct Energy Business for its Hornell operations. Stated differently, Hornell does not have access to green energy. So Alstom buys credits, guaranteeing the generation of clean energy that serves as an offset.

Alstom’s primary pollutants are volatile organic compounds — chemicals used and produced in manufacturing paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. They contribute to smog and acid rain. By implementing pain substitutes, the company has significantly reduced its VOC emissions since 2010. 

The 2025 goals:

  It aims to have 25% recycled content for newly developed stock in 2025.

— It plans to reduce energy consumption by 25% by 2025. 

— All of its solutions will have eco-design approaches by 2025. The eco-design process looks at the product lifecycle from design to recycling to predict its effects on the environment at each stage. That includes examining the raw materials used, the pollution created during its manufacturing and delivery, how much energy it uses, and the waste it creates upon disposal. 

— All of its electricity will come from clean sources in 2025. It is installing solar PV panels across its facilities worldwide. 

— It plans on a 40% cut in greenhouse gases from all Alstom sites (Scopes 1 and 2) by 2030, from a 2021 baseline. 

— It plans to cut indirect greenhouse gas emissions (Scope 3) by 35% by 2030 from a 2021 baseline.

The most significant part of Alstom’s carbon footprint is made during its operations — one addressed by using more energy efficiency. It reduces energy use by adopting a systematic design for lifecycle management. As a result, it has reduced energy usage by 22% since 2014 for both freight and passenger solutions. 

But it is doing more. Today, about 25% of rail operations depend on diesel. In Europe, 46% of rail lines remain “unelectrified” and 6,000 diesel trains are set to be replaced or refurbished by 2035. Alstom says it is addressing this — with hydrogen trains that have zero emissions: it acquired Helion Hydrogen Power, a manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cells and fully integrated hydrogen systems for transport and energy applications.

“Our Coradia iLint™ train has proven the viability of hydrogen rail, providing a whisper-smooth emission-free ride with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers,” it says.  The successful deployment of the Coradia iLint in Germany has led to multiple orders and the development of a broader range of hydrogen trains. Alstom has taken orders for a total of 59 hydrogen trains, including the delivery of Coradia Stream hydrogen trains to Italy.”