UNITED STATES Class 1 BNSF, Caterpillar and Chevron have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop a pilot locomotive powered by hydrogen.

The MoU was signed on December 14. Progress Rail will design and build the hydrogen fuel cell-powered locomotive, while Chevron will develop the fuelling concept and infrastructure. BNSF will make its lines available for prototype testing.

“The proposed demonstration project is subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements with customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval,” the companies said in a statement. The companies say additional details about the demonstration including where the initial pilot will take place and its timing would be released at a later date.

The partnership follows Caterpillar and Chevron’s announcement in September that they would jointly develop hydrogen development projects in both transportation and stationary power applications.

“This technology could one day be a lower-carbon solution for line-haul service,” says Mr John Lovenburg, BNSF vice president of environmental. He said the technology had the potential to reduce carbon emissions and remain cost competitive.

“Our work with Progress Rail and BNSF is an important step toward advancing new use cases for hydrogen in heavy-duty transport, as we seek to create a commercially viable hydrogen economy,” said Mr Jeff Gustavson, Chevron new energies president.

An in-depth feature asking if hydrogen is the right traction for rail was published in the October edition of IRJ. Digital subscribers can read it here.