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 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 Class EH500 and 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 It was formally withdrawn on 29 March 2002.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.
EF500-901 on display at Hiroshima Depot open day in October 2015