Canadian Pacific electrifies locomotives with Ballard fuel cells
Ballard Power Systems announced that Canadian Pacific would employ Ballard fuel cell modules for its Hydrogen Locomotive Program. The HLP aims to develop North America’s first hydrogen-powered line-haul freight locomotive by retrofitting a diesel locomotive with fuel cells.
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The Ballard fuel cell modules will provide a total of 1.2 megawatts of electricity to power the locomotive and work with battery technology to power the electric traction motors. Once the concept vehicle is operational, Canadian Pacific plans to conduct rail service trials and qualification testing to evaluate the technology’s readiness for the freight-rail sector.
Ballard plans to deliver six of its 200-kilowatt fuel cell modules to Canadian Pacific in 2021 and will support integrating the modules into the locomotive.
“We are excited to be working with Canadian Pacific, an industry leader in the North American rail sector. Canadian Pacific’s Hydrogen Locomotive Program will develop North America’s first hydrogen and fuel cell-powered line-haul freight locomotive,” said Randy MacEwen, Ballard President and CEO. “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.”
Canadian Pacific President and CEO Keith Creel further underlined the need for alternative power systems in logistics: “How we power our trains matters to our customers, employees, shareholders and to the communities we operate in. In addition, this technology holds the possibility of eliminating emissions from freight train operations, which already represent the most efficient method of moving goods over land.”
A similar project has been underway in Europe for some time. In cooperation with Eversholt Rail, the French group Alstom presented the design of a new hydrogen train for the British market in 2019. The hydrogen train, developed under the code name Breeze, is also converting an existing diesel train. The Breeze trains passed their tests and will enter production so that the first hydrogen trains will be operational around 2024.
Update 04 November 2021
One of North America’s largest rail companies, Canadian Pacific, announced it would “dramatically expand” the scope of its pioneering Hydrogen Locomotive Program since it received a $15 million grant through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) today. The grant enables CP to increase the number of hydrogen locomotive conversions in the project from one to three and add hydrogen production and fueling facilities.
The new grant builds on the $15 million CP already planned to invest in the development project in 2021 and is part of a 50/50 matching grant from ERA’s Shovel Ready Challenge program.
The new money will help CP build upon its early program research to convert an additional line-haul locomotive and a yard switcher locomotive. The company says this work would refine the process of converting diesel-electric powertrains to hydrogen-electric powertrains over a series of three categories of locomotives, which collectively represent most locomotives in use throughout North America.
For the new hydrogen production and fueling facilities, CP has chosen railyards in Calgary and Edmonton. The Calgary fueling facility will include an electrolysis plant to produce hydrogen from water and operate on renewable power from solar panels at CP’s headquarters campus. The Edmonton facility consists of a small-scale steam methane reformation system to generate hydrogen from Alberta’s natural gas resources. The system will be constructed to accommodate the possible future addition of greenhouse gas capture equipment.
Taken together, Canadian Pacific hopes the project will create “a global centre of excellence” in hydrogen and freight rail systems in Alberta.