Sierra Northern Railway hydrogen switcher locomotive

USA: The California Energy Commission has awarded Sierra Northern Railway and energy research organisation GTI almost $4m to fund the production of a fuel cell shunting locomotive, with the aim of demonstrating the potential for hydrogen traction units to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel.

The project involves the integration of fuel cell, hydrogen storage, battery and control technologies to create a platform which would be suitable for widespread commercialisation in the immediate future.

Sierra Northern Railway is the technical lead, and has partnered with GTI as the formal applicant to the California Energy Commission. The technical partners are Railpower Tech, Ballard Power Systems, Optifuel Systems, UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, Valley Vision, Velocity Strategies, Southern California Gas Company and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.

Sierra Northern Railway said short line and shunting locomotives account for a significant share of rail’s energy use in California, and so are ‘an excellent testbed’ for the demonstration of zero-emission technologies.

‘We believe this project will help lead the switching locomotive industry to an emissions free pathway in all ports in the state’, said Sierra Northern Railway President Kennan H Beard III.

Sierra Northern Railway is part of the privately-owned Sierra Railroad Co, the principal owner of Sierra Energy Corp which has developed a proprietary FastOx technology which uses heat, steam and oxygen to break down waste to produce products including hydrogen.