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Hydrogen Trolleys Are No Folly, Go Hydrolley

Now, I’ve talked about hydrogen trains or hydrail a number of times over the past. But, one area that I haven’t mentioned yet are hydrogen trolleys or hydrolley as they are calling it.

Streetautos in general have made a resurgence over the years and not just in San Francisco, but in many other large and medium metropolitan cities across the U. S. as well. Trolleys are thought by the populace to be more upscale than other forms of public transportation and enjoy a higher percentage of riders.

But, hydrogen streetautos won’t need overhead electrification like regular trolleys do. And, so they will be much less expensive than spending the $2 million or so per mile for overhead electrification.

Overhead electrification creates problems with interference such as cranes that need to move about freely and shock hazards to maintenance personnel. The downside of fuel cell streetautos is that they will require occasional refueling like hydrogen buses.

There is a good PowerPoint presentation on this that shows the benefits of hydrolley. In addition, it talks about proposed hydrolley applications in Charlotte, North Carolina.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen auto blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen autos, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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  1. Avatar

    I notice an upsurge in remanufactured trolleys, trams, & streetautos by several manufacturers — GOMACO, Brookville, TIG-M, and Bendigo (Australian). Do you know whether any of them have considered hydrolley power? It seems like a natural extension of their build — or rebuild — to avoid costly catenary or some other external power source, if hydrogen power has indeed achieved some level of industrial maturity. This could turn into more than a merely theoretical question.

    H N Pelta

  2. Avatar

    Harold Nils Pelta is right on track!

    Per a 2007 survey, some 53 new US streetauto systems were on the drawing boards. The reasons to avoid new catenary systems are compelling. At least 5 major builder have very recently introduced hidden external power sources, costing about the same as catenary (far more than hydrogen) but satisfying the public push-back against aerial utility plant. Most of these are in places (Europe) with large existing fleets of catenary trains that can be retrofitted for onboard power storage and used with intermittent “zaps” along the line. Where there is no upfitable fleet, the only reason for not going to hydrolleys is simply the absence of vendors.

    If all 50+ new US lines are built, the external track electrification bill could be in the order of US$3 billion, of which half would be from US DOT. Given that it’s all but certain that hydrolleys will begin to replace these lines before a major fraction of their amortized investment life has elapsed, and that electrification is approaching US$7 million per mile and growing, Federal losses for not leading a coherent transition to hydrolleys can be huge.

    It’s time for the Fed to say, “Read my specs: no new catenaries!” and get on with adaptation of proven hydrogen hybrid bus technology to the emerging streetauto renaissance.

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