Ontario is hoping to join the list of mostly European innovators looking to create clean public transportation.
The provincial government has announced their intention to study the feasibility of having hydrogen-powered passenger trains in use on RER lines and the UP express. The train will combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, converting the energy via fuel cells that charge the train’s battery. The only emissions that will be produced is steam and condensed water.
The feasibility study will look at whether or not hydrogen-powered trains are more efficient than electric vehicles. The ultimate decision maker will be how quickly this technology can be adopted, as the government doesn’t want these new innovations to impact pre-set completion dates for RER. “We want to know if hydrogen fuel cell technology can be ready in time to deliver Go regional express rail by 2024-25,” Ontario Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, said while in Etobicoke.
In the fall, the province will bring industry leaders together for a symposium to explore the application of hydrogen fuel cell technology. In the meantime, the province will continue to work on electrified rail service.
“Our work on GO RER is about transforming transit in the GTHA by creating a sustainable, integrated, regional transit network that connects people and communities to jobs, services and activities in their everyday lives,” Del Duca said in a statement. “Electrified service as part of GO RER will allow us to run faster, more frequent rail service across core sections of the GO rail network, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by removing diesel service where possible.”
The first hydrogen-powered train will launch in December 2017 in Germany. Alstrom, a French manufacturing company, is working on the actual train while a Canadian company called Hydrogenics is providing the fuel cell to help with the energy conversion.
Del Duca mentioned Hydrogenics and said there is a “positive economic development potential” in embracing hydrogen-powered technology, but that Ontario isn’t ready to discuss any specific details.
While in Etobicoke, Del Duca also announced the launch of a study that will examine electrification of the GO line as part of the Regional Express Rail program, “the backbone of this next generation of transit”. The RER program is set to be completed by 2025, regardless of whether or not the province chooses to use to clean technology.
The RER program expansion will introduce two-day GO service by 2025, including Lakeshore, Kitchener, Barrie, and Stouffville lines.