California moves forward with its dream of hydrogen-powered trains in the Golden State.

California continues to expand its hydrogen-powered passenger rail fleet

Yesterday CalTrans 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.

An image of one of California’s new hydrogen-powered trains.

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  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 and Amtrak San Joaquin 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.

California Transportation Secretary Toks Omishakin.

“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.”

CalTrans Director Tony Tavares.

“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 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.

Stadler CEO Martin Ritter.

“We are very proud to be providing additional hydrogen trains to the California State Transportation Agency and CalTrans,” said Stadler, CEO Martin Ritter. “With our multiple units, we are jointly driving the decarbonization of rail transportation in the U.S. 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.