Grid Scale, Storage

Fuel Cell Train is Locomotive of the Future

An international consortium is working on what they say could be the world’s largest fuel cell vehicle, a 109 metric ton, 1-MW locomotive. The first fuel cell-powered locomotive for military and commercial railway applications will be developed and demonstrated over the course of the five-year project.

Denver, Colorado – August 21, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] An international consortium is working on what they say could be the world’s largest fuel cell vehicle, a 109 metric ton, 1 MW locomotive. The first fuel cell-powered locomotive for military and commercial railway applications will be developed and demonstrated over the course of the five-year project. Based on electrochemistry rather than combustion, the solid-state fuel cells that power the locomotive will generate energy quietly, as well as efficiently, and produce zero emissions. The project was conceived, organized, and is led by Vehicle Projects of Denver, Colorado. It is being funded and administered by the US Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), and the National Automotive Center (NAC), of Warren, Michigan, via contractor Jacobs Engineering Group Inc, Pasadena, USA. Vehicle Projects previously developed and demonstrated a fuel cell mine locomotive and is also developing a 23 metric ton, 100 kW fuel cell-battery hybrid mine loader both projects supported by the US Department of Energy and Natural Resources Canada. The objectives of the project are to develop the fuel cell locomotive by retrofitting an Army diesel-electric locomotive with a fuel cell power plant, demonstrate the locomotive in an Army non-tactical application, and facilitate commercialization of fuel cell power for rail transportation. The US Department of Defense has a track record in “dual-use” technology development that has led to both military and commercial applications, such as the Internet and the Global Positioning System (GPS). This project can similarly lead to dual-use applications of fuel cell vehicles. Potential commercialization paths and follow-on demonstration projects include subway utility locomotives, switchers, commuter rail, subway trains, light rail, heavy freight, and high-speed rail. The project consists of four phases: feasibility and conceptual design, power plant fabrication, integration of the locomotive vehicle, and demonstration in a non-tactical Army application. Phase 1, currently under contract, includes comparison of the cost-benefit, performance, safety, and marketability of fuel cell locomotives with diesel-electric and electric (trolley) locomotives; determination of the best fuel cell-locomotive fuel, along with fuel production methods and the potential for renewable fuel; determination of the best fuel cell type; and conceptual design of controls, sensors, packaging, and refueling. Available funding for Phase 1 is US$1 million, which covers all oversight, management, and execution costs. Estimated total cost of the five-year project is US$12 million.