French national railway SNCF said on Thursday it had ordered 12 hydrogen-powered trains to begin testing in four regions in 2023 as it looks to a zero-emission future with the nascent technology.
The trains will be built by French industrial group Alstom and will run on hydrogen or electricity with overhead catenary wires, the joint statement said.
They are designed to run up to 600 kilometers on each hydrogen charge and "should begin service in 2025," said the head of Alstom France, Euan-Baptiste Aimeoud.
The contract is worth 190 million euros ($225 million) for the first 12 trains, which should be designed for 218 passengers and evenly divided between four regions in the east and south of France.
Alstom first tested prototypes in Germany three years ago and has now begun the commercial phase with 41 orders for 72-meter (yard) trains.
They are designed to combine onboard hydrogen with external oxygen through a fuel cell mounted in the roof that powers the engines.
"This is another step towards' zero emissions ' in public rail transport," Christoph Faniche, head of Voyageurs SNCF, was quoted as saying.
SNCF currently operates 1,100 regional express trains that use diesel fuel, which it plans to phase out by 2035.
It is also testing alternative technologies based on batteries and" green " fuel from colza.
Hydrogen is considered a leader in the race to develop sustainable energy sources and reduce carbon emissions.
But it is expensive to produce and the electricity needed is generated.