When Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh teamed up for the movie version of “A Streetcar Named Desire” little did they know at the time that they had created a classic that would live on for years.
But, change is inevitable. Back in 1951 when the movie was created, there were no cell phones, no desktops and laptops and the civil rights movement hadn’t taken hold yet. Back then streetcars were powered by overhead electrical lines.
Today, however, may signal a changing of the guard when it comes to streetcars or trolleys as some call them. What city planners in New Orleans and San Francisco and 50 other cities fail to realize as they are waxing nostalgia is that they can in fact have the retro look and feel of streetcars of old with the new propulsion system of hydrogen fuel cells.
The streetcars of the 1950’s were expensive, tied to unsightly overhead power lines that require much upkeep and are a hazard to streetlight changers, power companies, firefighters and birds. The cost effective solution for cities and towns wanting to add trolleys to their urban landscapes is to go hydrolley (hydrogen trolley) instead.
By going with streetcars using hydrogen fuels cells, no overhead power lines are used and electricity during peak hours is also saved. Safety issues are diminished and the cost and planning of building an intercity streetcar power line grid goes away.
Willie D. Jones at IEEE Spectrum has taken a good look at the merits of hydrogen fuel cell powered streetcars, saying, “At first blush, streetcars may not seem worth devoting much effort to. Many Americans think of them as a quaint anachronism retained by a few cities like New Orleans for nostalgia’s sake. But more than a dozen municipalities around the world have restarted and extended trolley car lines because they attract wealthier riders than buses and inspire new, high-density property development … Choosing a streetcar design based on hydrogen could save such municipalities millions of dollars per kilometer … A 2006 assessment found that roughly one-quarter of the total cost of a planned 16-kilometer rail extension connecting the city and surrounding suburbs would have gone toward installing a catenary system.”
This is where old meets new. The yearning for the past can still stay alive with a few upgrades in the present. A Streetcar Named Desire has a new desire and that is to run on clean, green hydrogen while paying homage to the history that has taken us to this present place in time.