In February 2012, Vehicle Projects Inc is collaborating with Anglo American Platinum Limited ("Amplats") of Johannesburg, South Africa, to build five fuelcell mine locomotives to be demonstrated in Amplats' Dishaba underground mine in Limpopo province, South Africa. The locomotives will not require any electricity from the grid to function, and will not emit any noxious gases.
Vehicle Projects Inc, as prime contractor, is executing engineering design, fabrication, and testing of the fuelcell powerplant and reversible metal hydride storage system.
The VP-designed reversible metal-hydride storage unit provides hydrogen-dense, energy-efficient, ultra-safe storage of hydrogen for underground operations. It is designed to store 3.5 kg of hydrogen (50 KWh electrical output at the fuelcell) and be refueled underground from 20 bar hydrogen in 10-20 minutes. During refueling, either waste mine water or ambient mine air will cool the hydride bed. Operating hydrogen pressure is only 10 bar gauge. The storage unit will fit within a 0.3 m3 box. The entire power-dense locomotive power module – fuelcells, batteries, hydride storage, cooling system, and power electronics – requires only 1 m3 of volume.
CAD model of reversible metal-hydride storage system Upon completion of testing of the power module (expected in March - April 2012), the unit will be shipped to Vehicle Projects' locomotive project partner Trident South Africa (Pty) Ltd in Johannesburg, South Africa, for integration into a Trident 10-ton New Era locomotive. Integration, locomotive testing, and demonstration, initially at the Trident surface test track, will be assisted by Vehicle Project's project partner CAD model of fuelcell powerplant Battery Electric (Pty) Ltd of Johannesburg.
Amplats is funding the project and will serve as the end user of the developed fuel cell mine locomotives.
In 2010, the road-switcher locomotive's fuelcell powerplant was upgraded from 240-kW net power to 500 kW net. The resulting 500-kW unitary, standard power module or power building block will be the basis of future multi-MW railway locomotives. Thus, development of the 500-kW power building block is a critical development in the evolution of fuelcell switch locomotives to fuelcell road-switch locomotives that can make a vast impact on emissions reduction and national energy security.
In January of 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the BNSF Commerce Mechanical Facility to tour the hydrogen fuel cell switch locomotive. Mr. Matt Rose, BNSF chairman, president and chief executive officer, said, "Through a unique partnership with California, the railroads have embarked on an aggressive program to substantially reduce emissions from locomotives and rail yards. California communities are breathing cleaner air as a result of this cooperative relationship...Governor Schwarzenegger and his administration understand the benefits of rail and have worked closely with us to build upon the environmental advantages of rail to reduce emissions and improve air quality."
In 2009, Vehicle Projects Inc, along with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, successfully integrated the fuel cell system and sub-systems into the locomotive, resulting in a fully functional and operational fuel cell hybrid switch locomotive. BNSF provided the location for the system integration and initial testing of the completed switch locomotive. The government and BNSF provided the funding for testing at TTCI, demonstration in Los Angeles, and power-to-grid demonstration at Hill Air Force Base.
In 2008, Vehicle Projects LLC, with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, designed, developed and fabricated system and sub-system modules for a future 250kW fuel cell hybrid switch locomotive. BNSF provided the locomotive platform and location for the modification and fabrication of the module components. The government provided the fuel cells and sub-system components.
In 2005, led by Vehicle Projects LLC, an international consortium developed a 160-kW, 23-tonne fuelcell mine loader, a key production element of underground mining. Based on the empirically determined duty cycle, its powerplant is a fuelcell-battery hybrid using 90-kW (nominal) PEM fuelcell stacks supplemented by a 70-kW transient-power nickel metal-hydride battery. A fuelcell-battery hybrid power-plant design was chosen because of high but narrow power peaks in the duty cycle and the ability to recover some of the vehicle kinetic and potential energy as it descends ramps. The powerplant was capable of delivering 70 kW of continuous net power and 140 kW peak net power, which compares favorably to the diesel version of 123-kW peak net power.
In 2002, Vehicle Projects developed the world’s first fuelcell-powered underground mining locomotive utilizing reversible metal-hydride hydrogen storage. The 3.6 tonne locomotive endured extensive analytical and surface testing before its demonstration in a working gold mine owned and operated by Placer Dome Inc in Ontario.