Fuel cells go loco

A joint venture between Denver-based Fuelcell Propulsion Institute and its neighbour, Vehicle Projects LLC, the mine locomotive is said to be the world’s first fuel-cell powered mining and tunneling haulage vehicle.

Despite North America’s enormous dependence on oil and its President’s pitiful environmental policy, US development of environmentally friendly technologies continues apace.

Nowhere is this climate more evident than in the application of Hydrogen fuel cells, and a fuel-cell powered mine locomotive is one of the latest ideas to come to fruition.

A joint venture between Denver-based Fuelcell Propulsion Institute and its neighbour, Vehicle Projects LLC, the mine locomotive is said to be the world’s first fuel-cell powered mining and tunneling haulage vehicle.

Developed at California’s Sandia National Laboratories, the power plant consists of PEM (proton exchange membrane) stacks rated at 14 kW continuous gross power – twice that of a battery powered vehicle – and vertical cylinders that hold enough reversible metal-hydride material to provide 3 kg of high-purity hydrogen fuel. This will run the locomotive for 8 hours, after which it will take approximately 1 hour to refuel.

This August the locomotive pulled its first fully loaded 4 ton cars on a surface track site at an Experimental-mine in Val-d’Or (Quebec, Canada).

Underground testing is now underway, and this October the vehicle will be heading to Nevada for final prototype testing.

Editor’s note: Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has announced plans to exempt fuel cell vehicle (FCV) owners from two taxes beginning in 2003.The purpose of the tax waiver is to encourage consumers to buy the vehicles, which are expected to enter the market by the end of this year. The ministry has proposed removing a vehicle owner tax that is equal to five percent of the vehicle’s purchase price, as well as a 39,500 yen (about £210) tax on vehicles with engines between 1,500 and 2,000 cubic centimeters.