by guest Blogger Stan Thompson

Before 2014, the Caribbean island nation of Aruba will roll out the world’s first fleet of hydrogen hybrid, self-powered, rail transit vehicles. Los Angeles, CA, transit manufacturer TIG/m Modern Street Railways is building both the streetcars—resembling heritage open trolleys—and the hydrogen production infrastructure needed to power their fuel cells.

Energy for the three-car hydrogen hybrid fleet, plus one battery-only car for peak hour reserve service, will come substantially from Aruba’s sustainable energy gold mine: the eastern trade winds that blow year round at over ten miles per hour. The battery streetcar is already in service (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWI6NBE33wc).

By 2020, renewable energy will power Aruba’s streetcar fleet fully in two ways. Late at night, between duty cycles, grid electricity will charge each vehicle’s battery complement. Later this year, 2013, hydrogen—electrolyzed substantially using wind turbine energy—will complement the three hybrid units’ batteries, allowing all-day operation with no external charging. Today the grid is 20% wind powered but Aruba’s energy plans call for 100% renewable sourcing by the end of this decade.

When operating, the streetcars’ ultra-efficient regenerative braking systems will capture stopping energy for vehicle reacceleration.

Denmark and Germany have long considered wind an ideal source of carbon-free railroad propulsion energy. Dr. Holger Busche, head of Germany’s hydrail-specializing Schienenflotte GmbH, has pursued rail-wind options in Schleswig-Holstein for over ten years. In 2006, Denmark’s Aarhus University pursued wind commuter hydrail in the wind‑rich Jutland Peninsula.

But Aruba and TIG/m Modern Street Railways will be the first to make renewable-sourced hydrogen hybrid streetcars an on-the-ground reality. The TIG/m battery streetcar is already in service in Aruba’s National Capital, Oranjestad.

Pending completion of the electrolyzer system, the first car now runs on battery-stored grid energy. By this fall, when the hydrogen fueling system is completed, the three new vehicles will complete the fleet as true hydrogen hybrid streetcars.

For information on other hydrail projects and the June 11-12  8th International Hydrail Conference in Toronto, Canada, please visit www.hydrail.org.

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