What kind of fuel am I

What kind of fuel am IAn international consortium is developing a 120-ton, 1 MW (1,300-hp) locomotive that will be a retrofit of a U.S. Army diesel-electric EMD GP10. The five year, $12 million project, which commenced May 27, "will develop and demonstrate the first fuelcell-powered locomotive for military and commercial railway applications," according to Arnold R. Miller, Ph.D., of non-profit Denver, Colo.-based Fuelcell Propulsion Institute (

The project is led by Vehicle Projects LLC, Denver, an affiliate of the Institute, and is funded and administered by the U.S. Department of Defense Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), National Automotive Center, Warren, Mich. Vehicle Projects previously developed a fuelcell mine locomotive and is also developing a fuelcell/battery hybrid mine loader in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy and Nat ural Resources Canada.

Fuelcells are solid-state devices that directly convert fuel energy (by combining hydrogen and oxygen) into electric power. Their byproduct is water. Fuelcells were developed in the 1960s by NASA for the Apollo moon landing program (to provide power to the Command/Service Module) and were first applied on the Gemini spacecraft. In recent years, experimental fuelcell-powered buses have been developed and placed in transit service.

Among the objectives of the locomotive project are demonstrating the unit in an Army non-tactical application and facilitating commercialization of fuelcell power for rail transportation, initially in yard/switching applications. "The Department of Defense has an exemplary track record in technology that has led to military and commercial applications," says Miller. "This project can lead to important dual-use applications of fuelcell vehicles. Potential commercialization paths include subway utility locomotives, switchers, commuter rail, light rail, heavy freight, and high speed rail."

The four-phase, five-year program includes feasibility and conceptual design, powerplant fabrication, locomotive integration, and demonstration in a non-tactical Army application. Phase 1 includes comparison of the cost-benefit, performance, safety, and marketability of fuelcell locomotives with diesel-electric and electric locomotives, determination of the best locomotive fuel (with fuel production methods and the potential for renewable fuel) and fuelcell type, and conceptual design of controls, sensors, packaging, and refueling.

GP10 no. 4645 (inset) is at the Defense Non-Tactical Generator & Rail Equipment Center, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, being disassembled and rebuilt for the project. The technology illustrated above is indentical to that used in the mine applications: PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) fuelcell type and metal hydride storage equivalent to 400 kg of hydrogen. The 1,300-hp (continuous rating) powerplant is modular and consists of eight stand-alone modules. Each contains fuelcell stacks (dark blue) totaling 163 hp (125 kW). The orange tanks are the metal-hydride storage, "a safe and compact method of storing hydrogen," says Miller.

"The design shown should run the GP10 in its usual military application for 50-60 hours between refueling operations," says Miller. "However, other types of fuelcells and fuel storage are being analyzed. The final decision will be made in late October or early November of this year. The biggest issue is the volume required to store the fuel."

Technical analysis for Phase 1 is being performed under management of Vehicle Projects LLC by AeroVironment Inc., Monrovia, Calif. (powerplant design); Defense NTG & Rail Equipment Center (locomotive packaging and integration); Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio (fuel identity and production); TTCI (applications, fuel storage, locomotive performance); Volpe National Transportation Systems Center-Research Special Program Administration (safety, economics, marketability); and Praxair, Danburg Conn. (hydrogen fuel and primary energy).

Commercialization guidance is provided by prospective end-users of fuelcell locomotives: BNSF; MTA New York City Transit; Regional Transportation District, Denver; and Tube Lines/London Underground. Expertise in specific fuels and fuelcell types is provided by MesoFuel, Albuquerque, N.M. (liquid ammonia); HERA Hydrogen Storage Systems, Inc., Montreal (metal-hydride storage); Intelligent Energy, London (PEM fuelcells); Methanol Institute, Washington, D.C.; Nuvera Fuel Cells, Milan, Italy and Cambridge, Mass. (PEM fuelcells, hydrocarbons). Education is provided by the Fuelcell Propulsion Institute; WestStart, Pasadena; and Madison Government Affairs, Washington, D.C.