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Railway Gazette: Fuel cell testing begins

USA: BNSF has begun in-service testing of the experimental hydrogen fuel cell shunting locomotive developed in partnership with Vehicle Projects and the Department of Defense. The trials are being undertaken at the railway's yard in Commerce, California.

'As far as we know, this is the first hydrogen fuel cell locomotive in the world', said BNSF President Matt Rose. 'While it's still experimental, we are very excited to be able to take a leadership role in developing this cutting edge technology. The benefits of hydrogen are its low emissions and that it can be produced from a variety of sources.'



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Mar 5th, 2010 at 02:46:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dodo, is this the right path to take you think?  Rather than investing in electrification.
by njh on Fri Mar 5th, 2010 at 05:45:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I would certainly support the electrification of the entire US mainline network, from which the electrification of switch yards could follow, but that would be a giant project taking at least a decade, so I would welcome such improvements even as transitory measure. (Also note that even in Europe, most shunters are diesel-hydraulics, even all-electric Switzerland uses them.) For a fuel cell loco, the question is how it is refueled, though. It may be that a Green Goat emits less CO2 than the fuel cell loco with the fuel cell making plant included...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Mar 5th, 2010 at 05:59:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So why are diesel shunters preferred?
by njh on Sat Mar 6th, 2010 at 04:49:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Europe, there is first the issue of legacy. The demand for shunting fell greatly over the last few decades (general fall of traffic, shift to large customers and direct services), thus most railways get by with their old shunters (with some modernisation), and there are few orders for new ones. And most old shunters are diesels, because back a few decades ago, not only was electrification les progressed, but electrics were less reliable in such service before the spread of inverters and asynchronous motors.

Still, the two railways that sustained short-distance rail freight traffic most, and thus had bigger new shunter orders in recent times, Switzerland and Austria, ordered more diesel than electric shunters in the mast two decades. For example Austria (series 1163 electrics & 2068 diesels in the nineties, series 2070 diesels in the noughties):


So, why? The main reason is to enable their use in serving industry connections (which are often unelectrified even in Switzerland). A lesser, similar use is pulling track maintenance trains (which must run when the overhead line is off).

They also mean less front-end investment. Especially as until recently, there have been no small electric locomotives on the market, while diesel shunters can be derived from well-established small diesel families, saving on development costs. Here is the first new electric shunter in 15 years, the SBB series Ee 922 (built from last year by Swiss maker Stadler after none of the three giants gave SBB an offer):



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Mar 7th, 2010 at 11:57:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More on the SBB Ee 922: the order translates to SFR 2.1 million (€1.44 million) per locomotive. For comparison, the just as powerful ÖBB 2070 were €0.97 million apiece, while the twice as powerful Am 843 diesels were bought for around SFR 2.55 million (SFR 100,000 of this for particulate filters). Why did SBB still spend on the Ee 922? Not because of fuel prices, but noise.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Mar 7th, 2010 at 12:30:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Say that diesel becomes fiendishly expensive, could .ch and .at electrify their freight services to become competitive with road transport?
by njh on Sun Mar 7th, 2010 at 06:31:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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