Southern Railway of BC Going ‘Green’ With Switcher Retrofit

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor

Two British Columbia-based hydrogen-technology companies are partnering with Southern Railway of BC (SRY) and the Okanagan School of Engineering to convert a switcher from diesel-electric to hydrogen-electric power.

Loop Energy, a developer and manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cell (HFC)-based systems for commercial vehicles, and Hydrogen in Motion (H2M), a solid-state hydrogen storage provider, reported Sept. 1 that the switcher will be retrofitted with Loop’s 50kw eFlow™ fuel cell system and H2M’s low pressure solid-state hydrogen storage tank. It is Loop’s first rail application.

The University of British Columbia Okanagan School of Engineering (UBCO) “will conduct computational modeling of H2M low-pressure tanks, comparing the hydrogen-electric powertrain performance characteristics and operational functionality with those of the previous diesel-electric locomotive,” according to Loop.

SRY has committed to the project “to prove out viability and demonstrate GHG [greenhouse gas] and other community impacts,” reported Loop, which noted that if successful, SRY “will be able to onboard the rest of [its] fleet,” with the possibility of transferring the technology to other railroads. 

Providing partial funding for the project are the government of British Columbia through the BC Advanced Research and Commercialization program as well as the government of Canada through the MITACS and the Industrial Research Assistance Program at the National Research Council, Loop said.

“This is a monumental step in making zero-emissions rail transport a reality, through a safe and compact onboard hydrogen storage solution,” Loop Energy Chief Commercial Officer George Rubin said. “Combined with Loop Energy’s fuel efficient and power-dense 50kw fuel cell module, we’re delivering a stronger, more efficient locomotive model by harnessing the power of hydrogen and battery-electric.”

“The introduction of a hydrogen infrastructure into rail yards reduces air contaminants and greenhouse gases and brings clean technologies, job growth and innovation to local communities,” H2M CEO Grace Quan said.

Following are more Railway Age articles on alternate technology-powered locomotives:

Wabtec, GM Team on New Locomotive Power Systems

SERA To Build Hydrogen-Powered Switcher

BNSF/Wabtec BEL Pilot: The Results Are In and BNSF/Wabtec BEL Pilot Under Way

Zero-Emission Locomotives on U.S. Railways?

Fuel Cells and Batteries: The Future of Mobility?

The ‘H’ Factor

CP Embarks on Hydrogen Locomotive Pilot (With more information here: 2021 Railroader of the Year: Keith Creel, Canadian Pacific and here: CP Hydrogen Locomotive Pilot Powered by Ballard)

Hydrogen Strategy for Canada’s Railways

PHL to Test Progress Rail EMD® Joule

OptiFuel Producing Natural Gas Switchers

Cummins QSK95 for Freight

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