Millions in Funding Approved for Future Hydrogen-Electric Rail Technology as Few US Rail Lines Electrified

Swiss rail manufacturer Stadler has reached a 7 million agreement with the state of California to construct six additional zero-emission, hydrogen-powered passenger trains. This recent deal builds upon the initial partnership formed last October, which included four trains valued at million, along with an option for 25 additional train sets. California is set to expand its fleet of hydrogen fuel cell trains, becoming the first in the country with a total of 10 trains and the potential for 19 more.

Stadler’s EVP of Marketing and Sales, Ansgar Brockmeyer, emphasized the importance of environmentally friendly travel in North America through the use of vehicles like the FLIRT H2. The state’s investment is part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s billion zero-emission vehicle package, with 7 million allocated to the California State Transportation Agency specifically for the purchase of clean bus and rail equipment.

According to Caltrans, the state’s transportation department, these new train sets are not only more efficient and lighter but also more cost-effective compared to traditional locomotive-hauled coaches. Hydrogen-powered trains offer a cleaner alternative, as they generate only water and heat as byproducts, minimizing the release of greenhouse gases.

The FLIRT H2 trains from Stadler are projected to start operating in 2027, serving passengers between Merced and Sacramento on an expanded Altamont Corridor Express and Amtrak San Joaquin services. This route will eventually connect to California’s future high-speed rail service between Merced and Bakersfield.

While hydrogen-based trains may be a novelty in the U.S., other regions like Spain and Quebec have begun exploring these cleaner forms of public transportation. California’s commitment to expanding its fleet of hydrogen-powered passenger trains reflects its dedication to providing innovative and sustainable transportation options for its residents.

Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin stated, “California continues to lead the way to a cleaner, more connected transportation system.” Caltrans Director Tony Tavares added, “These clean-energy trains are the future. California is building a climate-resilient transportation system that will help every community move around the state in a safe and sustainable way.”

By investing in clean-energy train technology, California is taking a significant step towards a more environmentally friendly transportation system, demonstrating a commitment to sustainable and innovative solutions for the future.