by guest blogger Stan Thompson
The Tenth International Hydrail Conference (“10-IHC”) came home to Mooresville, North Carolina, on June 22-23 and it was a resounding success for a number of reasons.
Our twenty presenters were a delightful mix of pros from previous IHCs, academics, railroad professionals, VIPs and Brad Read, President of TIG/m, who built the hydrail streetcar lines in Aruba and Dubai. Sponsors from Boone, NC, to Beijing, China, were so generous we were able to waive all registration fees for the second year in a row. The 10-IHC Conference venue was only a few hundred yards from Norfolk Southern’s “O-Line” tracks, where passenger hydrail was conceived back in 2003.
But far and away the most profound revelation was in the presentation by Peter Eggleton, a consultant on hydrail applications to Hydrogenics, the international fuel cell leader headquartered in Mississauga, Canada. Peter is a mechanical engineer who advises Hydrogenics on hydrail for TELLIGENCE Group, Consultants in Transportation Technology in Saint-Lambert (Montreal), Canada. He brought great news from Hydrogenics President and CEO, Daryl Wilson, the 2013 keynote presenter at 8IHC in Toronto.
The title of Peter’s presentation was wonderful in itself: “Hydrogenics – Alstom Transport Agreement to Commercialize Hydrogen Powered Commuter Trains in Europe.” We had celebrated this milestone back in April when it was first announced but what Peter told the Mooresville Conference about the origin of the partnership evoked a “YES!” that’s been a long time coming.
The event that first occasioned the discussions between Hydrogenics and Alstom Transport was the Eighth International Hydrail Conference! It led to discussions and the eventual agreement to deploy forty hydrail commuter trains in Germany between 2018 and 2020. 8IHC was hosted by Robert Stasko and Ryerson University in Toronto.
In 2005 and 2006, when former Mooresville Mayor-Bill Thunberg, Appalachian State University Energy Center Research Analyst-Jason W. Hoyle, and I first convened the International Hydrail Conferences, sparking just such a partnership was the consummation devoutly to be wished.
It is hard to see how the transit industry will be able to sell 21st century iterations of 19th century technology at €5 million extra per km after 2018 with a wireless Alstom hydrail train whispering through Germany—let alone after 2020, when there will be at least 40 hydrail trainsets in the fleet. The paradigm is poised to shift!
For the 2007 US EPA Sustainable Energy Conference in Atlanta, I calculated that commencing the transition from diesel to hydrail just one year earlier could keep about 214 million tons of CO2 out of the air. The precedent that took shape at Toronto’s Hydrail Conference has probably advanced hydrail deployment by several years and a billion+ tons.
Next summer the 11th Hydrail Conference will be back at the University of Birmingham, UK, where the Centre for Railway Research and Education granted their first hydrail-focused Ph.D. to Dr. Andreas Hoffrichter, also in 2013 (“it was a very good year”).
Austria and China have asked about the 2017 and 2018 IHC’s. But if Aruba, Caribbean Netherlands, were to invite the Conference to the home of the world’s first hydrail streetcar fleet (“made in the USA” by TIG/m Modern Street Railways of Chatsworth, California), it would be hard to resist. In 2020, just as the 40th Alstom/Hydrogenics train hits Germany’s tracks, Aruba—the jewel of the eastern trade winds—will become the world’s first country to go totally carbon-free.