SBCTA unveiled a new hydrogen powered train at San Bernardino Depot Train Station

Passenger rail service between San Bernardino and Redlands will soon be running cleaner with today’s arrival of North America’s first self-powered, zero-emission passenger train that will meet Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations. The train’s arrival at the San Bernardino Depot Train Station marks a significant milestone on its incredible journey from concept to reality.

The passenger train, a Zero Emission Multiple Unit (ZEMU), uses hybrid hydrogen and battery technology to propel the train and power onboard electrical systems. Water vapor is the only emission generated from the propulsion system, making this a clean transit alternative.

The train’s arrival in Southern California represents more than 10 years of planning, including four years of train development, by the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA), which saw the need for efficient, sustainable passenger rail as part of the regional transportation ecosystem. The agency serves one of the fastest-growing economic and population centers in the country, as well as one of the more challenged air quality basins in North America.

ZEMU’s journey began in eastern Switzerland, where it was built by Stadler at the company’s headquarters. From there, it was transported by truck and then barge to Belgium where it set off on its voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.

ZEMU arrived in the U.S. at the Galveston, Texas port in the fall of 2023 where it continued its journey on American soil to the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo. for safety testing.

Taking a short break from testing, Stadler and SBCTA debuted ZEMU at the October 2023 American Public Transportation Association’s annual EXPO in Orlando, Fla. to showcase the innovative hydrogen-powered rail technology.

After testing, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotive coupled with ZEMU on June 18, pulled the new train more than 1,000 miles over two days from Pueblo, Colo. to San Bernardino, Calif.

“ZEMU’s arrival in San Bernardino is a significant milestone recognizing years of strategic planning for a greener rail system and a commitment to innovative transportation solutions in San Bernardino County,” Ray Marquez said. “I look forward to county residents and visitors riding ZEMU on the Arrow line in the coming months.”

The new ZEMU is easy to spot with its signature blue and white water-vapor design wrapped around the train’s two passenger cars and center power pack where the hydrogen and battery propulsion system is located.

ZEMU will soon begin the final phase of testing that will include trips on the Arrow line and Metrolink system checks with a goal of safe entry into service later this year.

Engr. Haseeb Ullah

Haseeb covers the global energy market for both conventional and modern energy resources. His expertise is on the global energy supply chain from generation to distribution and end-users. He has a Master degree in Engineering Management and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.
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