Of all the U. S. states, California has shown the biggest commitment to clean transportation including fuel cell vehicles. In the Golden State there are fuel cell cars for sale and lease, fuel cell buses deployed north and south, plus fuel cell trucks and delivery vans gracing the roadways.
With all of this commitment to hydrogen fuel cell transportation systems I have to ask where are all of the hydrail (hydrogen trains) in California?
The California Rail Map (see resources below) shows 500+ destinations that can be reached by the current passenger rail system. In 2011, California freight trains carried 156.1 million tons of freight over 6,863 miles of track.
Hydrail offers the advantages of:
- zero emissions
- cheaper than standard electrification
- less maintenance than diesel engines due to fewer moving parts
- proven technology which is already used in buses, trucks and cars
Since the State of California has already committed approximately $64 billion to the high speed rail “bullet train,” between Los Angeles and San Francisco, it would make sense to me that the State could also spend a very modest amount to test hydrogen trains as well.
In addition, the railway companies in California would do well to start testing hydrail technology before the governing bodies, such as the Air Resources Board, mandates pollution reduction for passenger and freight trains.
But, Wait, There’s More!
In January 2008, I had talked about how BNSF and Vehicle Projects LLC had collaborated in building a hydrogen fuel cell switch train in Kansas. Two years later this same fuel cell train would roll into California to meet then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Approximately 1 year ago, Raphael Isaac and Dr. Lewis Fulton from the University of California, Davis authored a presentation at the Hydrail 2015 Conference called “Rail Technologies: A California Cross-fuel Comparison, and Discussion of Hydrogen’s Potential Advantages” (see resource below). In this presentation there is a more detailed discussion of the pro’s and con’s of hydrogen trains for California (with the pro’s IMHO outweighing the con’s).
I would like to give a hat tip to my amigo Stan Thompson, Chairman of the International Hydrail Conference, who has done an outstanding job over the past 11 years at connecting interested parties in the U. S., China, Japan, Germany, U. K. and many other countries.