California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has inked an $80 million deal with Stadler Rail to introduce the first hydrogen-powered intercity passenger trains in North America. This groundbreaking initiative reinforces California’s commitment to being a global pioneer in clean and eco-friendly transport solutions.
These state-of-the-art hydrogen trains will be based on Stadler’s innovative Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train (FLIRT) concept. The key differentiator is their ability to operate using zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells, obviating the need for a separate locomotive. This technological leap builds upon the successful collaboration between Stadler Rail and the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority. Caltrans’ investment in this eco-friendly transportation alternative is part of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s ambitious $10 billion, multiyear plan to transition to zero-emission vehicles, which includes a substantial $407 million allocation to the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) for the acquisition and development of state-of-the-art clean public transit vehicles and infrastructure.
Toks Omishakin, California Transportation Secretary, expressed his excitement for California’s continued leadership in delivering innovative clean transportation options, which not only benefit the planet but also provide more choices for travelers. He highlights the significance of these hydrogen train sets as they represent the capabilities of an emerging technology and will complement the state’s future electrified high-speed rail network, further expanding its clean rail infrastructure.
Tony Tavares, Caltrans Director, emphasized the state’s commitment to allocating transportation funding for innovative solutions. The introduction of these zero-emission hydrogen trains aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help the state combat and adapt to climate change while providing travelers with a sustainable alternative to driving.
Martin Ritter, CEO of Stadler US, celebrated the partnership with California as it moves toward eco-friendly travel. He expressed Stadler’s commitment to working with the California State Transportation Agency and Caltrans to turn this vision into reality.
The $80 million contract includes an initial order for four trainsets, with provisions for up to 25 additional trainsets that can be deployed across California. The first set of trains will primarily operate between Merced and Sacramento as part of the expanded San Joaquin and Altamont Corridor Express Valley Rail services. These services will also integrate with the early high-speed rail connection between Merced and Bakersfield. Furthermore, these cutting-edge trains will be demonstrated on various corridors throughout the state, in collaboration with intercity and regional rail partners.
This momentous announcement follows a series of significant investments in zero-emission transportation in California. In July, Governor Newsom allocated approximately $450 million for zero-emission infrastructure, locomotives, vessels, and vehicles. These investments aim to build a more efficient, sustainable, and resilient supply chain. In April, Governor Newsom announced an allocation of over $690 million for public transportation projects, leading to the purchase of 277 new zero-emission vehicles statewide and the development of high-priority mobility hubs and rail projects.
As California makes strides towards a cleaner, more sustainable transportation sector, the introduction of zero-emission hydrogen trains represents a giant leap towards a greener, more sustainable future. These trains not only offer a viable alternative to traditional driving but also showcase the potential of hydrogen fuel cells as a clean and efficient mode of transport.