UPDATED: CP Hydrogen Locomotive Pilot Powered by Ballard

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor

Canadian Pacific (CP) will use fuel cell modules from Ballard Power Systems for its first hydrogen fuel cell (HFC)-powered linehaul freight locomotive.

The Class I railroad’s Hydrogen Locomotive Program, announced in December, will retrofit an existing diesel-electric linehaul locomotive, replacing its diesel prime mover and traction alternator with hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) and battery technology to power its electric traction motors.

Ballard plans to deliver six 200-kilowatt fuel cell modules to CP in 2021 and will support their installation. The modules will provide a total of 1.2 megawatts of electricity to power the locomotive, the companies reported.

Once the locomotive is operational, CP said it “will conduct rail service trials and qualification testing to evaluate the technology’s readiness for the freight-rail sector.”

“With this purchase from Ballard, a leader in the hydrogen fuel cell industry, CP further demonstrates its commitment to developing the next generation of locomotive—one that produces zero emissions,” said Keith Creel, CP President and CEO and Railway Age’s 2021 Railroader of the Year. “How we power our trains matters to our customers, employees, shareholders and to the communities we operate in. This technology holds the possibility of eliminating emissions from freight train operations, which already represent the most efficient method of moving goods over land.”

“In addition to Ballard’s work focused on powering commuter trains in Europe and urban trams in China, CP’s Hydrogen Locomotive Program in North America underscores the strong fit for zero-emission fuel cells to power heavy- and medium-duty motive applications, including trains, for which it is otherwise difficult to abate emissions,” Ballard President and CEO Randy MacEwen said.

Update: On March 10, Creel told attendees of Railway Age’s Next-Gen Freight Rail conference that the Program locomotive is expected to be operational by the end of 2022. He added that if the concept is proven reliable, CP could produce two additional locomotives. While the Class I railroad is not looking to become a locomotive manufacturer, Creel said, its vision is to partner with an OEM in the future to “benefit CP and the North American [railroad] landscape.”

For more on locomotives using alternative power sources, check out Railway Age’s February 2021 feature: “The ‘H’ Factor.”

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