Loop Energy, H2M team on locomotive

By Mike Brezonick02 September 2021

switcher locomotive Loop Energy and Hydrogen In Motion are collaborating on the conversion of Southern Railway’s diesel-electric switcher locomotive from diesel-electric to hydrogen-electric operation.

Fuel cell specialist Loop Energy and Hydrogen In Motion (H2M), a provider of solid state hydrogen storage technology, have announced plans to collaborate on converting a Southern Railway of BC owned and operated diesel electric switcher locomotive to hydrogen electric.

The two British Columbia-based companies will use locally developed technology, including Loop Energy’s 50 kw eFlow fuel cell system and a low-pressure solid state hydrogen storage tank developed by H2M. The project signifies the first instance of Loop supplying its products for use in a rail transport application.

“This is an exciting phase for the hydrogen fuel cell industry as this proves that it is technically and economically feasible to convert diesel-powered switcher locomotives to hydrogen fuel cell-based power systems,” said Grace Quan, CEO of Hydrogen-in-Motion. “The introduction of a hydrogen infrastructure into railyards reduces air contaminants and greenhouse gases and brings clean technologies, job growth and innovation to local communities.”

In conjunction with Loop Energy, H2M will be working with the University of British Columbia Okanagan School of Engineering (UBCO) and Southern Railway of BC (SRY). Under this collaboration, UBCO’s research component will conduct computational modeling of H2M low pressure tanks, comparing the hydrogen electric powertrain performance characteristics and operational functionality with those of the previous diesel electric locomotive. SRY has committed to demonstrating this hydrogen powered switcher locomotive in order to prove out viability and demonstrate GHG and other community impacts.

With the successful demonstration of this retrofit, SRY said it will be able to onboard the rest of its fleet as well as transfer this technology to other rail carriers such as CP and CN rail for a nationwide impact.

“As a Vancouver-based company, we’re passionate about joining forces with like-minded organizations on practical, sustainable mobility solutions in support of a clean energy future for the Canadian economy,” said George Rubin, chief commercial officer of Loop Energy. “This is a monumental step in making zero-emissions rail transport a reality, through a safe and compact onboard hydrogen storage solution. Combined with Loop Energy’s fuel efficient and power dense 50kw fuel cell module, we’re delivering a stronger, more efficient locomotive model by harnessing the power of hydrogen and battery electric.”

In addition of equipment and manpower provided by consortium members, SRY, H2M, UBCO, and Loop Energy, partial funding has been provided by the government of British Columbia through the BC Advanced Research and Commercialization program as well as the government of Canada through the MITACS and the Industrial Research Assistance Program at the National Research Council.

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