UK's first hydrogen-powered train to be tested

The first hydrogen-powered train is to be tested on the UK rail network.

The University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) will conduct the test with funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) and rail leasing company Porterbrook.

The test involves HydroFlex technology, which combines a hydrogen fuel tank with battery storage, fitted to a 319 class train.

Alex Burrows, director at BCRRE, said: “This is a great success story for the UK rail industry, which shows our capability and commitment to helping the government meet decarbonisation targets.

“Key to this success is the close partnership between academia and industry which has enabled us to pool the expertise needed to rapidly progress this technology from concept to full-scale working demonstrator. We look forward to the next phase of this project which will take this technology onto the UK railway.”

HydroFlex technology utilises hydrogen as energy through a system that begins in high pressure storage tanks. The hydrogen is sent to a fuel cell and combined with oxygen to form pure water and electricity. The electrical energy is then stored in lithium-ion batteries, with energy from the cell and batteries going through a traction control system to be moderated before powering electric motors.

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Collaborators in the project include Chrysalis Rail for installation, Denchi Group for traction batteries, Ballard Fuel Cell Systems for the fuel cells and Luxfer for the hydrogen storage tanks.

The DfT has awarded funding of up to £7.8m for 24 innovative projects  to tackle noise and air pollution on the rail network.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “It is fantastic to see government funding helping to drive this innovative project forward, as it progresses to the milestone of mainline testing.

“We are absolutely committed to driving forward a greener, cleaner and more efficient rail network, using new technology to create modern, low-emission trains which can handle a growing number of journeys.”

Other projects include a drone system by technology company Amey VTOL to conduct track inspections and a noise-reducing wall by 4Silence to prevent noise pollution.

Meanwhile, the Go-Ahead bus company will introduce a fleet of 2,500 buses with special air filters in Southhampton in order to help improve air quality. This followed a 100-day test last September where one of the buses travelled 9,000 miles and successfully extracted 65kg of polluting particles from the city air.

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