Intended as a prototype for a new fleet of high-power electric locomotives to haul freight trains northward from Tokyo to Hokkaido, the sole member of the class, EF500-901, was built jointly by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Electric, and delivered to Shin-Tsurumi Depot in August 1990. The design was broadly based on the JR Freight Class EF200 locomotives built for Tokaido Main Line freight duties west of Tokyo. Following initial test-running, the locomotive underwent long-term feasibility testing on freight services on the Tohoku Main Line. However, the locomotive fell foul of newly introduced government guidelines covering high-frequency electromagnetic noise emissions, and so fleet production was deemed unfeasible. JR Freight instead opted for the JR Freight Class EH500 and JR Freight Class EF510 locomotive designs.
EF500-901 was transferred to Sendai Depot in 1996, but subsequently saw little use. It was formally withdrawn on 29 March 2002. The locomotive is stored at JR Freight's Hiroshima Depot.