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Hydrail in Germany: another welcome first

by guest blogger Stan Thompson

About 12 years ago, when I first became interested in what’s now called hydrail (hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and battery railway traction), I caught a glimmer of the idea online from Germany in the State of Schleswig-Holstein. Someone there had seen that wireless electric trains could be powered by wind turbines via hydrogen .

Eight or nine years went by and I met Dr. Holger Busche, who later chaired and assembled the Ninth International Hydrail Conference (9IHC) in the railroad city of Neumünster, Schleswig-Holstein. When we met and compared notes it turned out that it was Dr. Busche who had conceived of wind-powered hydrail  back then.

Last year in Neumünster, Dr. Busche and his colleague, Herr Detlef Matthiessen MdL, Speaker for Energy Policy and Technology in the Schleswig-Holstein Parliament, proposed that Germany inaugurate an annual German hydrail event. All the country-specific accomplishments, needs and opportunities could be hashed-out and the results brought to—and shared with—the International Hydrail Conference, wherever it happened to be held each year.

The more I think about the Busche-Matthiessen concept, the better I like it.  For the introduction of ideas, an international forum is probably most productive. But, for the production of results on the ground where market-disruptive innovation is called for, a backdrop of national cohesion makes breakaway ideas more palatable. The Germany-specific  hydrail event is such a good idea I’ve recommended sponsoring similar national events to prospective IHC hosts in the UK and China.

Germany, the UK and China have critical masses of hydrail awareness great enough to benefit from a national event. Though I hate to say it, it seems unlikely that the USA could muster the momentum—even though we’re the birthplace of hydrail and the first country to manufacture and export the technology commercially.

The last serious hydrail story I’ve seen in a major US paper was an excellent piece by environmental writer Bruce Henderson in the Charlotte Observer, way back in 2006.  Since then—although the Charlotte-area Hydrail Conference organizers have made invited presentations in Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, England, France (just a cameo), Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and around the US—all offers to update The Observer’s 2006 piece have been declined.

2015 is the first year of the annual German-specific hydrail event and they’ve got a lot to talk about. At the top of the list is the forty hydrail commuter train order that Alstom Transport’s Salzgitter works will deploy in four German states by year-end 2020. Alstom unveiled their hydrail vision nine years ago at the Second International Hydrail Conference in Herning, Denmark. [http://www.hydrail.org/conferences/47]

So far as I know, the German hydrail event’s still unnamed. But the location will be Kiel; the date will be 29 April, 2015; and the results will be summarized at the Tenth International Hydrail Conference, to be held at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte this year on 21-24 June. [http://railconference.uncc.edu]

For presentations at all nine International Hydrail Conferences, visit http://www.hydrail.org/conferences.

About Stan Thompson

For 33 years I worked as an engineer, planner and futurist for what is now AT&T in Charlotte and Atlanta. Though I have no engineering degree, I'm a Life Member of the IEEE. Other memberships are the World Affairs Council, the local chapter of the National Association of Business Economics and the American Institute of Archaeology. (I dig international business, so to speak.)

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