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CSX Transportation unveils first hydrogen locomotive in West Virginia, U.S.

CSX hydrogen fuel cell locomotive, powered by Ballard

American Class I freight railroad company CSX Transportation has unveiled its first hydrogen fuel cell locomotive – powered by Ballard – marking a significant milestone in sustainable freight transportation in the United States. This pioneering achievement is the result of a successful partnership between CSX and another Ballard partner, Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC), and demonstrates CSX’s commitment to future proofing their transition to zero-emission technologies.

Announcing the initiative in June 2023, the hydrogen-powered locomotive was converted from an existing diesel drivetrain using a hydrogen conversion kit developed by CPKC. The process involved a retrofit of the existing diesel engine with two Ballard FCwave™ 200kW fuel cell engines, taking place at CSX’s locomotive shop in Huntington, West Virginia.

[Video footage courtesy of CSX]

The GP38H2 No. 2100 was converted by the team from an existing EMDGP40-2 diesel-electric locomotive. This followed on from an initial conversion of the GP38-2 model in 2020 - a popular locomotive used in yard switching service, with a duty cycle well suited to the performance characteristics of compressed hydrogen fuel and fuel cell power modules.

"Ballard's hydrogen fuel cell power presents a promising alternative to fossil fuels, offering greater efficiency and a decarbonized solution. Unlike traditional diesel engines, hydrogen-powered locomotives emit only water vapor and subsequently contribute to CSX's commitment to sustainability targets in our operations. The successful debut of our first hydrogen-powered locomotive stands as a testament to the exceptional skill and dedication of our employees at the CSX Huntington locomotive shop, whose outstanding efforts are also helping advance collaboration with our project partners."

Joseph Hinrichs CEO, CSX

Joseph Hinrichs_CSX

As the next step, CSX will deploy the new hydrogen-powered locomotive for field testing and further evaluate its performance and operational feasibility. This initiative with collaborators Ballard and CPKC marks a significant stride forward in CSX's ongoing commitment to innovation and sustainability.

The field testing will provide critical data on the locomotive’s performance in real-world conditions, which will be essential for determining the scalability of hydrogen fuel cell technology for broader use across CSX’s operations. This aligns with CSX’s broader strategy to reduce its carbon footprint and promote environmentally friendly freight transportation solutions.