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Fuel-cell locomotive has rail-application potential, consortium says

An international consortium recently began developing a 240,300-pound fuel-cell locomotive — the first designed for military and railroad applications, according to a prepared statement.

Led by Denver-based Vehicle Projects L.L.C., the five-year, $12 million project is being funded and administered by U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, and National Automotive Center via prime contractor Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.

The consortium plans to retrofit an Army diesel-electric locomotive with a fuel-cell power plant, demonstrate the unit in an Army non-tactical application and commercialize fuel-cell power for rail transportation. Fuel cells are solid-state devices designed to directly convert fuel energy into electric power.

The project could lead to such rail applications as commuter, light and high speed; heavy freight; switchers; and subway utility locomotives, consortium officials believe.

The project will proceed in four phases: feasibility and conceptual design, power plant fabrication, locomotive integration and non-tactical Army demonstration. Estimated to cost $1 million, Phase I includes comparing fuel-cell locomotives with diesel-electric and electric units, determining the best cell fuel and type, and designing controls and sensors.

Phase I involves 20 participants, including Association of American Railroads' Transportation Technology Center Inc., U.S. Department of Transportation, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, MTA New York City Transit, Regional Transportation District of Denver and Tube Lines/London Underground.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/18/2003