Canadian Pacific Hydrogen Locomotive Achieves First Commercial Production

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A still from a Canadian Pacific video shows the railroad’s first hydrogen fuel cell locomotive earlier this year. Canadian Pacific

NEW YORK — Canadian Pacific’s experimental hydrogen-powered locomotive achieved its first sales last month in Calgary, Alta., helping to determine whether the technology could ever replace diesel-electric locomotives.

“I’ll tell you the excitement around it, its potential, is real,” CEO Keith Creel said at the RailTrends conference on Tuesday. “And to see him two weeks ago running down the mainline at mainline speed pulling a load behind, I mean, it made the hair on my arm stand on end because I would have told you It’s been a pipe dream for two years… Well, it’s not a pipe dream. It’s a reality. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s super, super exciting.

The home-built unit, converted SD40-2F No. 1001, is nicknamed H2 0EL for “zero-emission hydrogen locomotive”. The Oct. 28 earnings test was the second big foray this year for the unit, which uses hydrogen fuel cells and batteries to power its electric traction motors.

CP uses solar energy to produce hydrogen at its Calgary headquarters. It also has a separate hydrogen production facility in Edmonton. CP is partnering with the provincial government of Alberta to build a DC traction unit as well as another AC traction unit.

By the end of next year, CP expects the three locomotives to switch customers in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, Creel said.

CP Keith Creel speaks.
Canadian Pacific CEO Keith Creel. Trains: David Lassen

“The next step is scalability,” says Creel, partnering with a customer who can build enough road locomotives to test the technology on CP’s rugged mainline in the Canadian Rockies west of Calgary.

“It’s the perfect test bed. If you can operate there – heavy haul, cold temperatures, the toughest operating conditions I’ve ever experienced in my career… it’ll work anywhere,” Creel says.

If the tests are successful, the hydrogen fuel cell locomotives should first be deployed in local service until the railroad can create a hydrogen refueling network in its system and build the necessary tenders. to give locomotives extended autonomy.

“I’m telling you this has potential, if it proves itself and stands up to the very tough validation tests that we’re going to put it through, it will be truly transformational for this industry,” Creel says. “And that’s something we’re extremely proud of.”

Creel stressed that the hydrogen project is really an experiment and that CP is not betting the farm on its efforts to create a green locomotive.

Alberta aims to transition to a hydrogen-based economy as part of a push toward cleaner energy supplies. CP would transport hydrogen from Alberta to its network customers, as well as to its own refueling facilities.

All Class I railroads have announced ambitious targets to reduce their carbon emissions as part of an effort to combat climate change.

Wabtec and Progress Rail are offering battery-electric hybrid locomotives and experimenting with higher blends of biodiesel and renewable diesel to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BNSF Railway tested Wabtec’s battery-electric locomotive as part of a hybrid train that powered freight trains between Stockton and Barstow, California last year.

Union Pacific has ordered 20 battery-electric locomotives — 10 from each manufacturer — for use in tests at two job sites.

Creel spoke at the RailTrends 2022 conference sponsored by trade publication Progressive Railroading and independent analyst Anthony B. Hatch.

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