California Orders 29 HFC Trains for Intercity Services (UPDATED)

Written by Keith Fender, International Railway Journal
(Photo Credit: Keith Fender)

(Photo Credit: Keith Fender)

Stadler, the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the design and delivery of four zero-emission HFC (hydrogen fuel cell) four-car FLIRT H2 trainsets for California at InnoTrans on Sept. 20.

The contract includes options for 25 more trainsets, which would replace existing diesel locomotive-operated operating push-pull sets used for state-funded Amtrak California services.

The new trainsets are based upon the initial two-car hydrogen trainset ordered by San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) from Stadler in 2019 that was built in Switzerland and presented at InnoTrans earlier on Sept. 20. This equipment is due to enter service in 2024 on the new nine-mile (14.4-kilometer) SBCTA San Bernardino Transit Center-University of Redlands line alongside the newly delivered Arrow low-emission Stadler FLIRT DMUs. Vancouver, British Columbia-based Ballard Power Systems on Sept. 26 reported it would supply six 100 kW FCmove™-HD+ fuel cell engines to power the SBCTA trainset. Stadler U.S. CEO Martin Ritter commented: “We are delighted to work alongside innovative organizations like SBCTA and Ballard that share our enthusiasm to reduce emissions in the sector. It is a great honor to be a part of bringing the first hydrogen-powered train to the United States.”

The state of California is planning to make all its passenger rail 100% emissions-free by 2035, and the order for the new trainsets is a key part of these plans. The first four new Zero Emission Multiple Units (ZEMUs), as Caltrans describes them, will be used in the Californian Central Valley on the route between Merced and Sacramento beginning in 2027.

The four HFC trainsets are longer intercity versions of the original Stadler ZEMU. They will be built at Stadler’s factory in Salt Lake City, Utah. The hydrogen fuel cells will be supplied by Ballard. Stadler and CalSTA say the new trainsets are designed with a 497-mile (800-kilometer) operating range in between refueling.

“Stadler’s goal is to help make travel in North America environmentally friendly through the vehicles and services we provide,” Martin Ritter said. “Only very few rail lines in the U.S. are electrified, which is why solutions like the FLIRT H2 are so important here.”

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