California to create hydrogen-powered train line

Isbel Lázaro.

trenes propulsados por hidrogeno

The United States joins the limited list of nations that have adopted hydrogen as a “green” alternative to replace older diesel locomotives. The state of California has announced the creation of the first hydrogen-powered train line in the country, following the example of some European countries that have already implemented this sustainable energy source to reduce emissions from conventional locomotives.

Germany led this movement in August 2022 by establishing a line of hydrogen trains that emit only water vapor. Other countries such as Spain, France, Denmark and the United Kingdom, along with the United States, have confirmed their plans to incorporate this type of train into their rail networks.

What will the new hydrogen-powered trains look like?

Future trains in California will use propulsion systems that combine batteries and fuel cells. These electric motors will convert hydrogen into electricity.

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They will start with a single four-car commuter train that will be in service in San Bernardino County this summer, but have plans to increase that number in the near future. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has entered into an $80 million contract with Swiss-based Stadler Rail for four new long-distance hydrogen trains, which will connect cities in the Central Valley beginning in 2027.

Stadler Rail, which already operates a manufacturing facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, will also be responsible for manufacturing the commuter rail mentioned above.“We believe this technology will be one of the most promising for California’s rail corridors,” said Kyle Gradinger, Caltrans deputy assistant director of rail transportation.

Hydrogen adoption in the U.S.

California is one of the most proactive states in the United States in the fight against carbon emissions. carbon emissions.. Its policies are becoming increasingly stringent, having invested substantial sums to promote the development of “clean” engines in cars, buses, trucks and railroads. It also has federal backing, with the U.S. Department of Energy awarding it a $1.2 billion grant to establish one of seven planned “clean hydrogen centers” across the country.

Importantly, the state will use a significant portion of these funds to purchase new heavy-duty hydrogen trucks, buses and trains, as well as to develop the refueling infrastructure needed to make the technology viable, a key challenge it currently faces.

Lewis Fulton, a researcher at the University of California-Davis and leader of the California hydrogen center’s transportation task force, said,“We are entering a new era.”

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