Fuel-Cell Trains On The Fast Track

Petroleum's supply uncertainty and price instability is as menacing to non-electrified railroads as it is to airlines.

Published: 12-Nov-2007

Hydrail technology - electric railway propulsion using onboard hydrogen fuel cells - is poised to replace both diesel electric locomotives and trains powered by track electrification. It will happen much faster than it took diesels to supplant steam locomotives. It is a potential bonanza for Connecticut's fuel cell manufacturers.

In 1925, the Long Island Railroad took delivery on the first oil-electric (diesel) locomotive, built by General Electric, Ingersoll-Rand and ALCO. It smoked less and was cheaper to build, to fuel and to operate than the 100-year-old steam technology it replaced.

In 2002, Vehicle Projects LLC of Denver delivered the first hydrail locomotive - a small mining unit for use underground, where its lack of emissions or need for overhead electric power foreshadowed a similar revolution.

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