Vacationing in Japan this week I accidentally rode on the world's first diesel-electric hybrid train in commercial service: The Kiha E200 running on the East Japan Railway's Koumi Line. Aside from being a new train, introduced in 2007, it seemed like any other, but the photographers camped out for a shot along the mountainous route told otherwise.
The train is a working prototype in use since July 2007 with the aim of gathering data for eventual mass production. Like a hybrid car, the diesel-powered engine is used during acceleration and the electric motor kicks in to maintain speed while collecting energy during braking.
As you can see in this YouTube video, the ride is smooth and quiet, and each train also includes a data screen near the bathrooms (that I didn't notice, since I'd gone at the station). The Koumi Line, according to the video caption (and Wikipedia Japan), is Japan's highest altitude train line at 1,375 meters, and it has spectacular views of the southern mountain range on the main Japanese island of Honshu, including Mt. Fuji. Developing highly efficient train transport will turn green mass transit even greener. Let's hope the test runs work out and other train companies get on board. Now, for the globally mobile, can I get a hybrid jumbo jet over here?