Ontario: feasibility study released for hydrogen-powered train technology

Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. and Metrolinx, the transport authority for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, with the support of Ernst & Young Orenda Corporate Finance Inc. and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, have released the Hydrail Feasibility Study Report. The study aimed to determine whether it is technologically feasible and economically beneficial to use Hydrogen Fuel Cells (HFCs) as a power source for electrifying the GO rail network. The study investigated several topics, including the scale of the Hydrail System, costs, safety and implications of implementing this system, as well as the risks and opportunities involved.

The study determined that it is technically feasible to build and operate the GO rail network using HFC-powered rail vehicles. Additionally, the study finds there is a good level of confidence the project can be achieved subject to certain assumptions and challenges. These include the functionality, size and cost of the end-to-end Hydrail System; designing and building a fleet of HFC rail vehicles and the interest of the major global rail vehicle manufacturers; the amount of electricity the system will need to consume to produce the required volume of hydrogen; the expected ability to refuel the HFC-powered locomotives and electric multiple units (EMUs) in time frames comparable to current diesel locomotive refueling; and the existing commercial availability and technological performance of all components that will be needed for the Hydrail System.

One key differentiator for the Hydrail System is the opportunity for broader benefits to Ontario in terms of economic development in the technology sector. This includes the creation of new opportunities for businesses in hydrogen and fuel cells, and the development of high-skilled jobs that would be required in these businesses and for the operation and maintenance of the Hydrail System.

Metrolinx is now working with train manufacturers Alstom and Siemens to produce concept designs that incorporate hydrogen fuel cells into bi-level EMU rail vehicles that would be used to provide the more frequent train service planned for the GO rail network.

In addition, Metrolinx is commissioning concept designs for a Hydrail locomotive that would be used in conjunction with the existing fleet of unpowered bi-level coaches. At the completion of these designs, Metrolinx will consider building a prototype that it could introduce into service. The prototype would gather valuable feedback on operations, performance and reliability.

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