CALGARY — Canadian Pacific announced this week that it had made a deal with Ballard Power Systems to provide fuel cells for its first-ever hydrogen-powered locomotive. The six Ballard modules will provide a total of 1.2 megawatts of electricity to power the locomotive and be delivered to the railroad in the coming months.
In December, CP announced that it would build North America’s first hydrogen-powered locomotive for main line service. Once the locomotive is ready for service, CP will test it 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 CP President and CEO Keith Creel. “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.”
Ballard is no stranger to the rail sector and its products have previously been used to power commuter trains in Europe and trams in China.
In 2009, BNSF Railway developed a hydrogen-powered switcher, but the technology has remained in its infancy within the North American rail sector. CP is not alone in its pursuit of finding alternative power sources for its locomotives, however, as the public and shareholders push for lower-emission alternatives. Last year, Pacific Harbor Line agreed to try a brand new, battery-powered locomotive from Caterpillar’s Progress Rail. The six-axle locomotive will demonstrate the latest lithium-ion battery technology and battery management system, alongside AC traction and state-of-the-art electronics. The zero-emission locomotive, dubbed “Joule,” will be capable of 3,200 horsepower and will be rigorously tested in all types of service at PHL, officials said.