California Orders Another Six HFC Trainsets

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(Rendering Courtesy of Caltrans)

(Rendering Courtesy of Caltrans)

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on Feb. 14 reported exercising an option with Stadler for six additional zero-emission HFC (hydrogen fuel cell) FLIRT H2 trainsets, valued at $127 million. The $80 million base contract, signed in October 2023, included an order for four trainsets and the option for a total of 25 more.

The first trains, comprising four cars each, are expected to enter revenue service in 2027, according to Caltrans. They are to run between Merced and Sacramento on the future Valley Rail service (download details below), an expansion of the existing Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) regional/commuter rail and Amtrak San Joaquins services that will eventually connect with the first section of California’s high-speed rail service, which will stretch 171 miles between Merced and Bakersfield. (San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission recently closed escrow on land for a new ACE station in Elk Grove, one of 16 planned for Valley Rail, and station construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2026.) Caltrans said the trains will also be demonstrated on corridors throughout the state in coordination with intercity and regional rail partners.

The six-trainset option is being funded through Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $10 billion, multi-year zero-emission vehicle package, which included $407 million for the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) to purchase or lease “state-of-the-art clean bus and rail equipment and infrastructure,” according to Caltrans.

The trainsets will be based on Stadler’s FLIRT (Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train) concept, extending work done with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA). SBCTA in 2019 ordered a two-car hydrogen-powered trainset that was built by Stadler in Switzerland and showcased at InnoTrans 2022. It arrived in the U.S. in September 2023 and was on display at the APTA (American Public Transportation Association) EXPO 2023 the following month. This equipment, called ZEMU (Zero-Emission Multiple Unit) by SBCTA, is slated to enter service this year on the nine-mile, five-station San Bernardino Transit Center-University of Redlands (Arrow) line, which began operations in October 2022. The ZEMU will run alongside the current low-emission Stadler FLIRT DMUs.

“These clean-energy trains are the future,” Caltrans Director Tony Tavares said. “California is building a climate-resilient transportation system that will help every community move around the state in a safe and sustainable way.”

“We are very proud to be providing additional hydrogen trains to CalSTA and Caltrans,” said Stadler US CEO Martin Ritter, who was one of Railway Age’s 25 “Fast Trackers” Under 40 honorees in 2024. “With our multiple units, we are jointly driving the decarbonization of rail transportation in the U.S. We thank CalSTA and Caltrans for their trust and look forward to deepening our partnership.”

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