California Expanding Fleet of Hydrogen Passenger Trains

Caltrans Purchasing Six Trains From Stadler Rail AG
Hydrogen-powered train
A worker refuels a hydrogen fuel cell powered prototype railway train. (Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg News)

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The California Department of Transportation announced on Feb. 14 a $127 million agreement with Stadler Rail AG to expand its fleet of zero-emission, hydrogen-powered passenger trains.

The six train purchase agreement increases California’s arsenal of hydrogen trains to a total of 10, and furthers the state’s goal to bring all of its railroads down to zero-emissions. Funding for the new trains will come from a $10 billion, multiyear zero-emission vehicle package that was implemented by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022 to accelerate the state’s transition away from fossil fuels.

The first of these zero-emission trains are expected to be operational in 2027 and will offer service between Merced and Sacramento on the future Valley Rail, which plans to eventually connect with the first section of California’s high-speed rail.

In October 2023, Caltrans signed an $80 million contract for four sets of hydrogen-powered passenger trains that will link cities in the state’s Central Valley. Last year’s base agreement also included options for Caltrans to purchase additional train sets from Stadler. Following the latest agreement, there are 19 option trains remaining on the base contract that Caltrans signed with the Swiss train builder in 2023.

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