First hydrogen-powered FLIRT H2 passenger train arrives at San Bernardino Depot Train Station

June 25, 2024
The new train uses a hybrid hydrogen and battery technology to propel the train and power onboard electrical systems.

The arrival of a new self-powered, zero-emission passenger train, running between San Bernardino and Redlands, Calif., will help to establish cleaner rail travel in southern California. The train arrived at the San Bernardino Depot Train Station after more than 10 years of planning, including four years of train development, by the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA), which saw the need for efficient, sustainable passenger rail as part of the regional transportation ecosystem. 

The passenger train, a Zero Emission Multiple Unit (ZEMU), uses a hybrid hydrogen and battery technology to propel the train and power onboard electrical systems. Water vapor is the only emission generated from the propulsion system, making the train a clean transit alternative and the first Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) compliant rail vehicle of its kind in North America.

ZEMU’s journey began in eastern Switzerland, where it was built by Stadler at the company’s headquarters. From there, it was transported by truck and then barge to Belgium.

ZEMU arrived in the U.S. at the Galveston, Texas, port in fall 2023 where it continued its journey to the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo., for safety testing. 

Taking a short break from testing, Stadler and SBCTA debuted ZEMU at the October 2023 American Public Transportation Association’s EXPO in Orlando, Fla., to showcase the innovative hydrogen-powered rail technology. 

At the conclusion of testing, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotive coupled with ZEMU on June 18, to pull the new train more than 1,000 miles during the course of two days from Pueblo to San Bernardino. 

"ZEMU’s arrival in San Bernardino is a significant milestone recognizing years of strategic planning for a greener rail system and a commitment to innovative transportation solutions in San Bernardino County,” said SBCTA President Ray Marquez. “I look forward to county residents and visitors riding ZEMU on the Arrow line in the coming months.” 

The new ZEMU features a blue and white water-vapor design wrapped around the train’s two passenger cars and center power pack where the hydrogen and battery propulsion system is located. 

In the coming weeks, ZEMU will begin the final phase of testing that will include trips on the Arrow line and Metrolink system checks, with a goal of safe entry into service later this year.