Sierra Northern Railway, the freight division of Sierra Energy Corporation, will use Ballard Power Systems’ fuel cell modules to power a zero-emission switching locomotive in Northern California.
Sierra is scheduled to place a purchase order for the fuel cell modules by the middle of 2021. A $4 million grant from the California Energy Commission will help finance the pilot program.
Sierra Northern webSierra aims to retire a diesel locomotive and replace it with a zero-emission switching locomotive powered by 200 kW of Ballard’s FCmove-HD fuel cell module and incorporating hydrogen storage, advanced battery, and systems control technologies. Sierra expects to bring the locomotive into operation in 2023, with Ballard delivering FCmove-HD fuel cell modules by 2022.
In California, where more than 260 switching locomotives and up to 500 intrastate locomotives are currently in operation, the program will create a forum for widespread deployment.
During the 6-month demonstration phase, Ballard will participate in the program as part of a multi-company team, providing applications engineering and field support. The switching locomotive will be refueled at a new hydrogen station that Royal Dutch Shell plc is planning to construct.
“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.
“We are excited to be working with Sierra Northern Railway toward demonstration of a fuel cell-powered switching locomotive at the Port of West Sacramento. This is another sign of increasing momentum in the deployment of zero-emission fuel cell propulsion solutions in the rail industry across numerous geographies, including North America. Fuel cells offer a compelling value proposition for Medium- and Heavy-Duty Motive applications, including rail, bus, truck and marine vessels, which we are keen to demonstrate for a switching locomotive, in addition to our work powering passenger and freight trains.”Tim Sasseen, Ballard Sales Manager for California
Short-line and switching locomotives account for a significant share of the total locomotive energy use within the State of California, making short-line operation an excellent testbed for the demonstration of zero-emission technology. Most switching locomotives in California use an average of 50,000 gallons of diesel per year, leading to a potential reduction of more than 12-million gallons of diesel annually – approximately equivalent to the fuel used by 20,000 light-duty vehicles.