SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The effort to develop alternative-fuel locomotives continues to gain momentum.
The California Energy Commission has awarded Sierra Northern Railway and research and development firm GTI almost $4 million to fund design, development, and demonstration of a hydrogen fuel cell-powered switching locomotive.
The funds will retire a Tier 0 diesel and replace it with a zero-emission switcher using a hydrogen fuel cell and advanced battery and systems control technologies to show the potential of such a system to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Most switchers use an average of 50,000 gallons per year of diesel fuel; widespread use of hydrogen technology could lead to a reduction of more than 12 million gallons per year, the same amount consumed by 20,000 light-duty vehicles.
“We are pleased to partner with this great team to build and test this innovative zero emission switching locomotive. We believe this project will help lead the switching locomotive industry to an emissions free pathway in all ports in the State of California,” Kennan H. Beard III, president of Sierra Northern Railway, said in a press release. Sierra Northern, the freight division of the Sierra Railway, operates 75 miles of track in Northern California. It is principal owner of Sierra Energy Corp, which has developed a proprietary waste-to-hydrogen technology.
Along with GTI, others involved in the effort are Railpower Tech, Ballard Power Systems, Optifuel Systems, the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies, Valley Vision, Velocity Strategies, Southern California Gas Co., and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District.
The California effort comes as Canadian Pacific works to develop a hydrogen fuel cell road locomotive, using Ballard fuel cells [see “Canadian Pacific announces plans …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 18, 2020]. And a battery-electric road locomotive developed by Wabtec in partnership with BNSF Railway is currently testing in California [see “Wabtec’s FLXdrive battery-electric locomotive begins revenue tests on BNSF,” News Wire, Jan. 4, 2021].