• Fuel Cell Powered Electric Locomotives.

  • General discussion about locomotives, rolling stock, and equipment
General discussion about locomotives, rolling stock, and equipment

Moderator: John_Perkowski

  by railfan365
Has any railroad to date ever run electric locomotives powered by fuel cells? Fuel cell powered equipment has been around at least since the early 1960's, and electric railroading has beeen around since the 1890's, so perhaps its time has come.

The advantages of fuel cell powered trains include:

1. Not having to maintain infrastructure on high power electric distribution to third rails and/or overhead wires while

2. No air pollution - at least form the trains themselves,

3. Quieter trains, and

4. The ability to run all trains between smoke free zones in underground tunnels and stations and dense urban areas and outlying areas.
  by DutchRailnut
Fuel cells are not big enough to supply power for a locomotive
  by Allen Hazen
I think I remember news stories a few years (5?) ago about an experimental fuel cell locomotive, experiment at leaswt financed by the U.S. Army. Locomotive a GP-7 or GP-9: some sort of fuel cell installation was supposed to replace the engine and generator. Don't remember more details, don't know what came of it.
  by DutchRailnut
even a 1600 Hp GP7/8 would require a 2 Mw fuel cell or about size of two tractor trailers.

scroll down to take a vacation and pictures of 4 fuel cells next to tenniscourt.
  by Eliphaz
Lets suppose a package could be be designed to fit a fuel cell powerplant with a decent amount of power into a locomotive.
Fuel cells still requires fuel.
Hydrogen storage tanks on board? fuel tender? hm. procuring and storing hydrogen...
Lets just say there are "problems" with hydrogen as a mobile fuel and leave it at that.
Moving on, a much more likely candidate fuel would be CNG. readily available at a good price.
"emissions" from the locomotive, would not contain particulate or NOx, but would therefor include CO2, as well as water vapor, at perhaps half the CO2 tons/Mwhr of a gas burning IC engine, and a little better than that for the diesel. the carbon in the gas does nothing in the fuel cell, it is merely a transport mechanism for the hydrogen. Hydrogen accounts for about 37% of the energy in the fuel. a fuel cell would therefor have a slightly better thermal efficiency than a diesel, even though it discards the carbon.
Ammonia is an interesting candidate too, being carbon free, but comes freighted with its own hazards.
In any case, very high pressure compressed (and hazardous) gas fuel tanks arent a terrificly attractive feature for a locomotive, especially in tunnels.

acceptable liquid fuels for fuel cell could be Methanol, Ethanol, Butane and Propane.
All of these fuels are much bulkier than diesel fuel. the liquids carry alot less hydrogen per cubic foot of storage tank, but at least eliminates the pressure vessel. thus even given double the thermal efficiency, fuel tenders will be needed for any kind of range.
If a fuel tender is to be hauled, we might as well hope for advances in battery technologies to bring straight battery electrics into view.

notice that the hypothetical fuel cell locomotive is much more comparable to a diesel than to an electric. all of the fuel cell fuels are light hydrocarbons, which defeats the one real advantage to electric trains, which is the ability to use all types of sources of electric power including nuclear, coal, wind and hydro.
  by MEC407
There is at least one hydrogen fuel cell locomotive in existence, and as far as I can tell it's currently in service/testing on BNSF Railway.

From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_Projects_HH20B):

BNSF Railway and Vehicle Projects converted a GG20B to an experimental testbed, for the use of hydrogen fuel cells. The new locomotive is designated HH20B. The locomotive was publicly demonstrated for the first time on June 29, 2009, at Topeka, Kansas.

The locomotive, BNSF 1205, was built initially for the Canadian Pacific Railway, but was not delivered, due to the cancellation of the order. It was sold to BNSF in 2008, and shipped to the railroad's shops at Topeka, Kansas for conversion. The diesel generator set was removed, and the fuel cell power unit was installed in its place. Hydrogen storage is in a set of tanks installed in a heavily vented enclosure on top of the locomotive's long hood, above the batteries.


http://cjonline.com/news/2009-06-29/new ... e_unveiled



http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/locoPi ... ?id=120230


BNSF hydrogen fuel cell locomotive in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1dCBtx6AGc

Moderator's Note: Content merged 3-29-11 456PM CDT
  by MEC407
Fuel cell locomotives are back in the news, this time in South Africa.

From FuelCellToday:
FuelCellToday wrote:Vehicle Projects Inc. (VP) of Golden, Colorado, USA, and Anglo American Platinum Limited (Amplats) of Johannesburg, South Africa, are collaborating on a project to build five fuel cell mine locomotives to be demonstrated in mid-2012 at Amplats’s Dishaba underground mine in Limpopo province, South Africa.

“The purpose of the innovative vehicles is to mine platinum in a more economical, energy-secure, and environmentally-benign manner,” said Dr Arnold Miller, president of Vehicle Projects Inc. “The locomotives will not require any electricity from the grid to function, and will not emit any noxious gases.”
Read more at: http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/news-event ... ocomotives
  by Desertdweller
The Milwaukee Road had a home-made shop switcher at Deer Lodge, MT that ran on an extension cord! (X3800)

Range was somewhat limited.

  by montananext
That Milwaukee switcher was used at the turntable at Deer Lodge, Montana. Today it is part of the Milwaukee Road display at the Milwaukee Road depot at Harlowton, Montana. The depot is open to the public during the summer months and by appointment during the winter although the switcher can been anytime since it saits outside the depot. John Larsen
  by MEC407
Update on the South African fuel cell locos:
Railway Gazette wrote:SOUTH AFRICA: Five fuel cell locomotives are under construction as demonstrators for use underground at Anglo American Platinum Ltd's Dishaba mine.

Lead contractor Vehicle Projects Inc is undertaking engineering design, fabrication and testing of the fuel cell power plant in the USA.
Read more at: http://www.railwaygazette.com/nc/news/s ... 12/04.html
  by MEC407
From Mining Weekly:
Mining Weekly wrote:Amplats CEO Neville Nicolau said that using the platinum-based hydrogen-powered fuel-cell locomotives would reduce the energy dependence of its mines and would be more environment-friendly than traditional rail transport. Fuel cell-powered locomotives would also create jobs and provide a more economical mining environment.

"If feasible, this could unlock and drive the development of a whole new industrial sector in South Africa," he said, pointing out that Amplats was engaging with local government to determine the feasibility of establishing a fuel cell industry in Limpopo.
Read more at: http://www.miningweekly.com/article/amp ... 2012-05-09