Hydrogen-powered train runs on UK mainline

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The first-ever hydrogen-powered train ran on the UK mainline today in a step towards the UK’s net-zero targets, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced (Wednesday 30 September 2020).

The train, known as HydroFLEX, has been supported with a £750,000 grant from the Department for Transport (DfT) and more than £1 million of investment by both Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.

Unlike diesel trains, hydrogen-powered trains do not emit harmful gases. Instead, they use hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat. The ground-breaking technology behind the trains will also be available by 2023 to retrofit current in-service trains to hydrogen, helping decarbonise the rail network and make rail journeys greener and more efficient.

The Transport Secretary also announced the ambition for the Tees Valley to become a trailblazing Hydrogen Transport Hub. The aim is to bring together representatives from academia, industry and government to drive forward the UK’s plans to embrace hydrogen as an alternative fuel which could create hundreds of jobs in the green hydrogen sector.

Says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps:

“As we continue on our road to a green recovery, we know that to really harness the power of transport to improve our country – and to set a global gold standard – we must truly embed change.

Adds Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook:

“Porterbrook is committed to innovation and the delivery of a carbon-neutral and sustainable railway. Today’s mainline testing of HydroFLEX achieves another important milestone on this journey.”

The next stages of HydroFLEX are already well underway, with the University of Birmingham developing a hydrogen and battery-powered module that can be fitted underneath the train, which will allow more space for passengers in the train’s carriage.

Concludes Rami Reshef, CEO, GenCell, a hydrogen fuel company: 

“It is very encouraging to see that the UK government believes that hydrogen-powered trains could be carrying passengers in just three years’ time. However, one major obstacle to making this happen is the current lack of infrastructure for both transporting and storing hydrogen. Fortunately, there is an alternative to investing billions of dollars in building out the hydrogen infrastructure: extracting hydrogen from ammonia.”
 
“Leveraging hydrogen-on-demand from ammonia, a material featuring high hydrogen density, provides an ultra-reliable, zero carbon emissions power source at a running cost of some 30 to 50 per cent less than diesel fuel. This could help kickstart a new, green transportation revolution.”

Chris Price
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