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North Carolina pioneering hydrail in USA

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a first step toward bringing hydrail back home

by guest blogger, Stan Thompson

North Carolina operates its own passenger railway service. The State Department of Transportation has begun plans to modify the locomotives on its line from the State Capital (Raleigh) to the State’s biggest city, (Charlotte) to be powered electrically by hydrogen via fuel cells—hydrail.

In an article just released by Kate Stevens in NC’s Statesville Record and Landmark, Mr. W. Lynn Harris outlines NC DOT’s hydrail innovation plans.

Mr. Harris is Senior Project Engineer and Program Manager for Emissions and Propulsion Technology at McDowell Engineering and Associates, the engineering consultants who manage rail traction and locomotive operations for North Carolina DOT’s Rail Division. The now-diesel Piedmont passenger trains operating between Raleigh and Charlotte and connecting with Amtrak to serve the Northeast are slated for zero-carbon modification.

NC’s are expected to become the first intercity hydrail trains in the New World.

Germany and other EU countries have committed to hydrail implementation. The northernmost German State, Schleswig-Holstein, will replace all its diesel traction with hydrail (using mostly wind-turbine-sourced hydrogen) by the year 2025.

China operates urban hydrail trams in Chengdu and Tangshan but no intercity service has been announced.

NC DOT is known for its commitment to clean traction. Earlier this year the US EPA certified the State locomotives’ catalytic Blended After-Treatment System, developed by Rail Propulsion Systems of California.

North Carolina’s hydrail vision dates back to 2003, when the US DOT invited a presentation about it at their Cambridge, MA, think-tank.

North Carolina’s hydrogen rail traction vision is America’s first since the BNSF Railway pioneered a hydrail switching locomotive in collaboration with the US Department of Defense around 2008.


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