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Mainline testing of UK’s first hydrogen train HydroFLEX gets green light

Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham’s Center for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) announced that the UK’s first hydrogen train—HydroFLEX (earlier post)— will be tested on the mainline railway following a successful proof-of-concept.

The mainline testing of HydroFLEX marks an important step in the development of a zero-carbon emission propulsion system that could help to decarbonize Britain’s railway. The HydroFLEX pilot involves the fitment of a hydrogen powerpack to an existing Class 319 train, which would eventually allow it to run on conventional electrified routes as well as independently. This results in a highly flexible train that can operate on different parts of Britain’s rail network.


Many collaborators have been key to the success of HydroFLEX so far: Chrysalis Rail for installation, Denchi Group for traction batteries, Ballard Fuel Cell Systems for the fuel cell, Luxfer for hydrogen storage tanks, DG8 design support, Derby Engineering Unit for panels and brackets, SNC Lavalin for design and hazard identifications, Aura for exterior livery design and DB Cargo Crewe for the recommissioning of the unit.

The HydroFLEX project has recently been awarded funding from Innovate UK through its First Of A Kind competition to take the prototype forward towards mainline testing. The same funding competition has enabled for Porterbrook to pair up with Eminox to create a catalyst converter for diesel trains, extending the green credentials of the rail leasing company.

Porterbrook Leasing Company Limited is a leading participant in the rail leasing market and has a rolling stock fleet with over 4,000 vehicles on lease or on order, which includes around 4,200 passenger vehicles.

In October 2014, the Porterbrook Group of companies was acquired by a consortium of investors including Alberta Investment Management Corporation, Allianz Capital Partners on behalf of certain insurance companies of the Allianz Group, EDF Invest and a consortium of Utilities Trust of Australia, The Infrastructure Fund and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Pension Fund.



Smart solution. Could it be applied for higher speed passenger e-trains in USA/Canada without having to install costly overhead cables?


@harvey, I wouldn't think so. High speed rail needs a lot of power.
Handy for shorter range, or mixed overhead / non overhead routes, as they say.
I am not sure about H2. It is very complex requiring fancy storage and a reformer. Also, it is usually made from methane. Why not just use natural gas and a generator, like a diesel electric engine, only a lot cleaner.


Using excess REs (Hydro and Nuke energy) and high efficiency electrolysers can supply the clean H2 required. The Siemens rail unit can operate for 600+ Km between quick refills.


They could use RNG with SOFCs.


Not sure why this is a smart solution. There are only using 100 KW from the fuel cell cell so it would relatively easy to replace the fuel cell with larger battery packs. The Proterra buses which are lighter and smaller vehicles are available with up to 650 KWHr and as the railcar would spend at least some of the time under catenary, it could charge the during this timeand still be able to run 5 or 6 hours on battery power alone. The battery only solution would be cheaper and more energy efficient.

As Mahonj noted, It would be hard to power high speed rail without catenary, These trains are drawing upwards of 12,000 KW.

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