Check out the latest Amtrak’s Airo trains

Amtrak has unveiled details of its newest train — the Amtrak Airo — that will replace its 50-year-old trains starting in 2026.

Siemens Mobility will build 73 Airos in California for Amtrak. The new trains will be launched first in the Northeast Corridor, and also along some state-funded routes. The entire fleet is expected to become operational in 2031.

The rolling stock is being funded by the Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act, which provides $66 billion in railroad financing to “eliminate Amtrak’s maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor, and deliver world-class rail service to regions beyond Northeast and Central. Atlantic,” according to the White House website.

How are they supported?

Airos will have two-way capabilities and operate at speeds of up to 125 mph. It will feature dual power diesel and electric motors, which will reduce the time it takes you to go from electric to non-electrified.

The tracks are not electrified on the West Coast so these trains will be diesel only. Amtrak states that “its new trains are more fuel efficient and produce 90% fewer particulate emissions than diesel operations,” but it doesn’t go into detail on how this will be achieved.

In New York, hybrid motor trains will have zero emissions as they pass through the tunnels.

Amtrak Airo Features

Airo business seats

Airo vehicles feature panoramic windows on both business and coaches, and there is a choice of single or double seating on business. (I recently sat in one at work on the Vermonter line, so even though it’s not new, it’s good they’re keeping this feature, because it’s pretty cool.)

Amtrak says the seats on the Airo are ergonomically designed, have plenty of legroom, and feature larger, sturdier tray tables, movable headrests, and custom cup and seat back holders. There are also individual outlets, USB ports, and Wi-Fi onboard. (Again, Amtrak already offers these tech features, and I hope the Wi-Fi will be faster on the new trains, because it’s kinda slow right now.)

Airo coach seats

The Airo will also feature a redesigned café van, with “self-service options”. Does Amtrak explain what that means – vending machines? – But I’m intrigued.

Take Electric

I’m a huge train fan, and that includes Amtrak. These railcar updates are welcome and long overdue. They will inevitably reduce emissions because they are more efficient, technologically advanced, and run on electricity at least part of the time.

On a day when the Biden administration just announced $750 million to develop green hydrogen technologies, I feel a little sad when I see the word “diesel” in the same ad as the new train cars. But I realized that hydrogen is so new — Germany just launched the world’s first fully hydrogen-powered train line in August — that these railcar upgrades had to be launched ASAP.

There you have it: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation sector is the largest producer of emissions in the United States. And when you break it down by source, railways only produce 2% of emissions. Compare that to light vehicles at 57%. So hopefully, these beautiful new train cars will entice people to ditch their gas powered cars and ride the rails more often.

Read more: M8 electric trains replace diesel trains on Connecticut’s Shore Line East

Photos: Amtrak

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