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Ontario seeking design concepts for hydrogen-powered regional rail trains

The Canadian province of Ontario is electrifying its GO rail network to transform how people move around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), and is seeking design concepts for hydrogen-powered trains as an alternative to conventional overhead wires. A division of Metrolinx, GO Transit is the regional public transit service for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

Through the GO Regional Express Rail (RER) program, Ontario will deliver faster and more frequent electrified rail service on core segments of the GO rail network and UP Express. As part of planning the electrification, Ontario is undertaking a feasibility study on the use of hydrogen fuel cells.

Recent advances in the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power electric trains in other jurisdictions makes it important that Ontario consider this clean electric technology as an alternative to conventional overhead wires. The Hydrogen Rail (Hydrail) Feasibility Study will inform a decision on how Ontario will proceed with the electrification of GO rail services.

A number of rail vehicle manufacturers will be commissioned to prepare designs and to demonstrate the impact that incorporating hydrogen fuel cells into bi-level trains would have on the performance of the GO rail network. This work is an important part of studying the feasibility of hydrail.

GO RER will bring more two-way, all-day service to commuters and families across the GTHA, increasing the number of weekly trips from about 1,500 to nearly 6,000 by 2025. It will provide faster and more frequent service across the GO rail network and is the largest commuter rail project in Canada.

Ontario is investing $21.3 billion to transform GO Transit from a commuter transit service to a regional rapid transit system. The Hydrail Feasibility Study is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2017, with a decision on electrification technology to follow.

The province has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for concept design work to show how a hydrogen fuel cell system could be integrated into a Bi-level Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) train.

An EMU train is an electric-powered train consisting of multiple self-propelled carriages linked together. An EMU does not require a separate locomotive, as electric motors are incorporated in each carriage. Examples of EMUs currently in service include the Heathrow Flyer in the UK, the AGV in France and the TTC’s Toronto Rocket subway trains.



They are doing the study to determine whether to use overhead lines or fuel cells so it is necessary to wait for the results (and hope that they are weighted fairly). However, I suspect that for high density traffic, overhead electrification would b cheaper over time. The energy cost would be less and while electric overhead wires require maintenance, the hydrogen system is considerably more complex and requires the fuel cells and batteries for regeneration while the with the overhead electric regeneration is handled by just putting the energy back into the lines. Maybe, on low traffic density lines, the costs would favor hydrogen.


I'm just going to put this out there in the 'let's not reinvent the wheel' folder. There is a company in England; that makes hybrid light rail trains which uses station stops for recharging and flywheels for energy storage. In urban zones, with their closely spaced stops, the trams have zero emission operation. And on longer runs with fewer stops the much smaller engine can still use low carbon fuels like propane, CNG, hydrogen, etc.


I believe the idea is to get completely off of fossil fuels. That was the reason for closing the coal power plants.


Contrary to EU-Japan-China and others, USA and Canada railroads are rarely electrified and use diesel-electric locomotitves for both passengers and freight trains.

In theory, the current large on-board diesel generators could be replaced with fuel cells and batteries. Where surplus REs are available, clean H2 could supply the on-board energy required.

Alternatively, overhead cables could supply the e-energy required. That method works well in EU, Japan, China etc. for their ultra high speed passenger trains.

For nuclear supporters, mini on-board reactors could be used instead of FCs and/or overhead power lines but safety protection could be a major problem to solve.


CNG/LNG would work for trains, use SOFCs.

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