Sera to develop hydrogen fuel cell shunter

Sierra Northern Railway (Sera) and GTI have been award nearly $4 million by the California Energy Commission to fund the design, integration, and demonstration of a hydrogen fuel cell switching locomotive.The locomotive will show the potential of hydrogen fuel-cell technology to reduce transportation air pollutant and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The funds will be used to retire a tier 0 diesel locomotive and to replace it with a zero-emission switching locomotive using advanced hydrogen technology. The project involves the integration of advanced hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen storage, advanced battery and systems control technologies to provide an alternative to less environmentally friendly diesel-powered locomotives. The demonstration will facilitate the improvement of local air quality, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, noise, and odor. 


Demonstration and validation of this technology will establish a platform for widespread commercialisation in the immediate future. Short-line and switching locomotives account for a significant share of the total locomotive energy use within the State as they carry a significant portion of freight in California and operate on the first and last miles of the national freight network. This makes short-line operations an excellent testbed for the demonstration of zero-emission technologies. Most switcher locomotives in California use an average of 50,000 gallons per year per switcher potentially leading to a reduction of more than 12 million gallons of diesel per year. This is approximately equivalent to the same amount of fuel used each year 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,” said Kennan H. Beard III, President of Sierra Northern Railway.


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

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