The UK’s first hydrogen-powered train (HydroFLEX) is moving closer to commercial operation after the University of Birmingham was awarded new funding by the Department for Transport.
The grant, worth £400,000, is part of InnovateUK’s First of a Kind (FOAK) Programme. It will enable the HydroFLEX development team at the University of Birmingham and industry partners Porterbrook to develop the detailed final production design and testing of the HydroFLEX train.
As well as being the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train, HydroFLEX is also the world’s first bi-mode electric hydrogen train. It will be undergoing mainline testing on the UK railway in the next few weeks.
Winning the FOAK 2020 programme marks an important step for the University and Porterbrook as it brings hydrogen trains one step closer to operation on the UK railway.
Alex Burrows, Director of University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, commented: “I am really pleased that our HydroFLEX project has secured further Innovate UK funding to take its development closer to full commercialisation.
“To achieve decarbonisation of the railway we need to develop hydrogen technology, alongside electrification and batteries, as one of the means to get diesel trains off the network.
“The University of Birmingham has world class R&D capability in rail decarbonisation and I am hugely proud of our team as we continue this fantastic innovation partnership with industry to accelerate the development of clean technologies for the railway.”
Removing diesel from the rail network is essential for the industry to demonstrate its low carbon credentials to the public and Government at a time of increasing environmental awareness and action. Hydrogen, along with electrification and battery technology, is one of the three means for delivering a decarbonised railway.
The University is keen to continue its leading research in hydrogen – including application to rail – in order to meet the Government’s decarbonisation agenda for the railway as well as enabling hydrogen powered trains to enter the UK transport market, for a cleaner and greener environment.
HydroFLEX launched at Rail Live in June 2019 where more than 500 people travelled by hydrogen power for the first time on the UK railway, including the Chairman and Chief Executive of Network Rail, the Secretary of State for Transport and the Shadow Transport Secretary.
Dr Stuart Hillmansen, Reader in Electrical Energy Systems at the University of Birmingham, said: “I am delighted that our team has received this funding to move towards a full production design of a Hydrogen powered train.
“It demonstrates that our team can deliver world leading fundamental research, and through partnerships with industry, see the ideas through to practical realisation. This project will have a real impact, and will rapidly accelerate industry efforts to deliver a solution to replace our diesel fleet.”
Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO, said “I am delighted that Innovate UK is supporting the University of Birmingham as it takes HydroFLEX to the next stage. We have proven this technology works, now is the opportunity for government to truly energise the Green Recovery by creating a real market for a fleet of hydrogen powered passenger trains.”
Minister of State for Transport Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The success of this trial in reducing harmful emissions underlines the importance of the First of a Kind competition, which funds pioneering projects to support better, more environmentally friendly rail journeys. Reducing the railway’s environmental impact and supporting decarbonisation is a priority for this Government. Harnessing innovation like this will be crucial in making our railways greener and cleaner in the future.”