North American High-Speed Train Opportunities

Canada's Bombardier makes big sale in China, while Germany's Siemsn and France's Alstom eye U.S market

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Bombardier Sifang, the Chinese joint venture of the big Canadian maker of high speed trains and commercial aircraft, reportedly will supply 80 of its Zefiro very high speed trains to China's Ministry of Railways. The trains will have a top speed of 380 kilometers per hour, and their development and sale positions Bombardier to challenge the world market leaders in high speed train technology, Alstom and Siemens. Alstom has marketed its famous TGV in Korea and Spain, while Siemens has sold versions of its Velaro--based on the ICE3 super-express trains used in Germany--in China and Spain.

In December, the Siemens Sapsan ("peregrine") will start service on the Moscow-St. Petersburg line in Russia. A similar Siemens train is a candidate for a high-speed corridor that could link San Francisco and Los Angeles. That would be a first for true high speed train technology in the United States, as the Acela train used in the Northeast corridor--a derivative of the TVG--has not performed at full capacity because of trackbed problems. Both Siemens and Alstom have been positioning themselves--and no doubt Bombardier is now getting into line as well--to compete for work on 11 proposed high-speed corridors in the United States.

The U.S. stimulus bill provides $13 billion in funding to develop high-speed train programs over five years.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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