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Placer Sentinel

California Continues to Expand Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Rail Fleet

Feb 28, 2024 01:25PM ● By  Caltrans News Release

One of the new rail fleets traveling through the countryside. Photo courtesy of Caltrans

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Caltrans today announced a $127 million agreement with Stadler Rail, Inc. for six more zero-emission, hydrogen-powered passenger trainsets, building upon an earlier order to deliver the first four hydrogen-powered intercity trainsets in North America, furthering California’s standing as a world leader in clean transportation.

The trains will help California adapt to climate change by strengthening the state’s zero-emission passenger rail capabilities. The first trains are expected to enter revenue service in 2027. The trainset design will make them more efficient, lighter weight and more affordable than traditional locomotive-hauled coaches.

rail fleet Caltrans

Side of a rail fleet. Photo courtesy of Caltrans

The purchase is funded through Governor Gavin Newsom’s historic $10 billion, multiyear zero-emission vehicle package, which included $407 million for the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) to purchase or lease state-of-the-art clean bus and rail equipment and infrastructure.

The first trains will operate between Merced and Sacramento on the future Valley Rail service – an expansion of the existing Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) and Amtrak San Joaquins services that will eventually connect with the first section of California’s high-speed rail service. The trains will also be demonstrated on corridors throughout the state in coordination with intercity and regional rail partners. With this option order, there are 19 option trainsets remaining on the base contract that Caltrans signed with Stadler in October 2023. 


A rail fleet taking a coastal route. Photo courtesy of Caltrans

“California continues to lead the way to a cleaner, more connected transportation system,” said California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin. “By expanding our fleet of hydrogen-powered passenger trainsets, we are showing we are serious about deploying innovative and sustainable transportation options for the people of this state.”

“These clean-energy trains are the future,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares. “California is building a climate-resilient transportation system that will help every community move around the state in a safe and sustainable way.”

The vehicles will be based on Stadler’s successful Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train (FLIRT) concept, extending work done with the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority to develop self-powered multiple-unit trains using zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells without the need of a separate locomotive.

“We are very proud to be providing additional hydrogen trains to the California State Transportation Agency and Caltrans. With our multiple units, we are jointly driving the decarbonization of rail transportation in the U.S.,” said Stadler CEO Martin Ritter. “We thank CalSTA and Caltrans for their trust and look forward to deepening our partnership.”

California continues to build momentum in its nation-leading effort to harness clean renewable hydrogen power, critical to cutting planet-warming pollution and expanding the clean energy economy statewide. Caltrans’ purchase of the first four trainsets in October came one day before the U.S. Department of Energy announced California will receive up to $1.2 billion as one of the country’s hydrogen hubs to accelerate the development and deployment of clean renewable hydrogen.

sunset rail fleet hydrogen

Sunset view of a rail fleet going over the water. Photo courtesy of Caltrans