BNSF Railway and Vehicle Projects Demonstrate Experimental Hydrogen Fuelcell Hybrid Switch Locomotive
|Rear view of the fuelcell hybrid switch locomotive. The dual Ballard fuel cell stacks are to the left (i.e., rear) of the switcher. Source: Vehicle Projects. Click to enlarge.|
BNSF Railway and Vehicle Projects Inc. of Denver/Golden, Colo., a developer of large fuelcell vehicles such as mine loaders and mine locomotives, unveiled an operational hydrogen fuelcell hybrid switch locomotive at BNSF’s Topeka System Maintenance Terminal. (Earlier post.)
Following its introduction, the locomotive is heading to the Transportation Test Center in Pueblo, Colo., for additional testing. Late this summer or early fall, depending on the outcome of the testing, the locomotive will go into service in the Los Angeles Basin, where it will face the test of actual service in the railroad environment.
BNSF operates through several locations that are in non-attainment areas for air quality as designated by the Environmental Protection Agency. We are investigating and experimenting with this hydrogen fuelcell technology for its potential niche application in areas with air quality concerns.—Mark Stehly, assistant vice president, Technical Research, Development and Environmental
Arnold Miller, president, Vehicle Projects, suggests that the fuelcell locomotive is the least-cost solution for such areas when the social costs of diesel-electrics and the infrastructure costs of catenary-electrics are considered.
The fuelcell powertrain was developed by Vehicle Projects with the support of BNSF, the US Department of Defense and a collaboration of industrial partners. The switcher is being also designed to be able to serve as a mobile backup power source (i.e., “locomotive-to-grid”) for military bases and civilian disaster relief efforts.
|Expanded view of fuelcell hybrid switcher. Source: Vehicle Projects. Click to enlarge.|
The locomotive features a 240 kW (320 hp) fuelcell prime mover (based on the stacks used in Daimler Citaro hydrogen fuel cell buses. It stores 70 kg hydrogen at 350 bar (5,100 psi) at roofline. A lead-acid traction battery allows transients above 1 MW. The locomotive has 9,000 kg of extra ballast to bring it to 127 tonnes.
The vehicle platform was based on the Green Goat diesel-battery hybrid switcher.