SERA To Build Hydrogen-Powered Switcher

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
The new zero-emission switcher, replacing a Tier 0 diesel unit, will integrate advanced hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen storage, advanced battery and systems control technologies.

The new zero-emission switcher, replacing a Tier 0 diesel unit, will integrate advanced hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen storage, advanced battery and systems control technologies.

Woodland, Calif.-based Sierra Northern Railway (SERA) will build a hydrogen fuel cell (HFC)-powered switcher under a nearly $4 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC).

The new zero-emission switcher will replace a Tier 0 diesel unit in an aim to “show the potential of hydrogen fuel-cell technology to reduce transportation air pollutant and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” according to the short line, which operates about 75 miles of track in Mendocino, Tuloumne, Stanislaus and Yolo counties. The switcher will integrate advanced hydrogen fuel cell, hydrogen storage, advanced battery and systems control technologies.

SERA is serving as technical lead on the project; GTI, a Des Plaines, Ill.-based non-profit research, development and training organization, is the formal CEC applicant. Other technical partners are Railpower Tech LLC, Ballard Power Systems (which was recently selected to supply fuel cell modules for Canadian Pacific’s first HFC-powered linehaul freight locomotive), 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.

“Demonstration and validation of this technology will establish a platform for widespread commercialization in the immediate future,” SERA reported.

SERA President Kennan H. Beard III

“We are pleased to partner with this great team to build and test this innovative zero-emission switching locomotive,” SERA President Kennan H. Beard III said. “We believe this project will help lead the switching locomotive industry to an emissions-free pathway in all ports in the state of California.”

SERA handles approximately 6,000 carsloads per year of lumber, bulk gypsum, canned goods, chemicals, steel, grain and grain products, ethanol, and propane, among other commodities. The short line is owned by Sierra Railroad Company, principal owner of Sierra Energy Corp., which it said has “developed a proprietary waste to clean hydrogen technology: FastOx® gasification.”

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