"The 1st IMechE Railway Challenge" - supporting the Team from the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education building a fuel cell hybrid locomotive
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) held their first ever Railway Challenge in June 2012. This event was closely based on the very successful Formula Student which has been run by the IMechE and SAE since 1998. The University of Birmingham was invited to participate in this railway challenge, alongside 3 other institutions with a track record in excellent railway research.
The task was to build a 1:10 scale railway traction unit that fulfils set criteria, and its performance was compared to the competing participants’ designs during testing on the Stapleford miniature railway in Leicestershire in June 2012. The three main challenges were; ride comfort, tractive effort, and regenerative braking capabilities. Students from different Schools with various specialist skills were involved in design, construction, testing, and operation of the locomotive.
Students and young researchers from Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials, and Mechanical Engineering, were involved in the UoB team. The project allowed students to apply their theoretical knowledge in practice, and it strengthened the students’ transferable skills, including their team work and communication skills.
The University of Birmingham is at the forefront of railway traction research, and the locomotive that was constructed received huge media interest. Following the successful trials the University released a press release of the trial which focused on the novel aspects of the overall design:
“The locomotive is a hybrid design, combining a hydrogen fuel cell and lead acid batteries similar to the ones used in cars. The fuel cell is used both to power the permanent magnet electric motors and to charge the batteries, with the batteries helping to meet the peak power demands when accelerating under load.
Hydrogen provides a clean source of energy and it offers a considerable extension in range in comparison to battery only operation. Over 5 000 litres of hydrogen are stored in a solid state metal hydride tank at relatively low pressure, with the system typically operating at just 5 bar. This was achieved by using one of the ten advanced hydrogen storage units successfully employed on the University’s hydrogen powered canal boat, the Ross Barlow.
This amount of hydrogen would enable the locomotive to haul a 400 kg load up over 2 700 m, twice the height of Ben Nevis, and two additional tanks can be easily fitted to further extend its range.
The locomotive also features regenerative braking to capture, store and re-use braking energy, as well as adjustable air suspension and a highly advanced touchscreen remote control that operates over a Wi-Fi link.”
The press release generated a great deal of media interest. The highlights of these include being featured in the following publications; New Scientist Blog, Huffington Post, The Engineer and Railway Gazette International.
Dr Hillmansen, the project proposer was also interviewed on the BBC’s West Midlands Radio Station. News of the loco was also picked up internationally and was featured in USA, Russian, Portuguese, Italian and Indonesian news sites.
The testing of the locomotive coincided with the 7th International Hydrail Conference which was held in the University of Birmingham in July 2012. This attached an international audience who, amongst receiving papers from leading hydrogen experts also had an opportunity to view the locomotive.
The interest in the locomotive was incredible and we soon realised that we should give the loco a name, as is traditional for locomotives. The loco was named “The Hydrogen Pioneer” by the team.
Since the challenge, The Hydrogen Pioneer has been busy. It was invited to Germany to a demonstration of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and it was filmed for a Germany TV station. It has also been invited to form part of the National Science Museum Science Week in 2013 where it will be used to demonstrate the options for zero carbon fuel for future autonomous transport. It was also recently filmed by the Department for Transport to provide promotional footage for the Government’s Railway Technical Strategy – which will be used to define the priorities for the technical development of the UK railway over the next 30 years.
Stephen Kent the team leader commented:
“I was ‘volunteered’ to be the Project Manager for the University of Birmingham team entering the inaugural IMechE challenge back in January 2012. While it sounded like an worthwhile project, it was when one of the team suggested constructing a hydrogen fuel cell based design that things really started to become interesting. The technology is fascinating, and appears to be point where it can usefully be applied to the UK rail network, as demonstrated by our locomotive, the Hydrogen Pioneer. I am convinced of the benefits and usability of this technology, and my involvement with the Railway Challenge has convinced me to start a part time PhD in the area.
As technical lead for mechanical design of the locomotive, the success of the Hydrogen Pioneer has also given a boost to my confidence and abilities in developing both concept and detail mechanical designs. This will benefit future project work within the Railway Centre, which frequently requires significant mechanical input.
The support received from the Circles of Influence Alumni was pivotal in enabling the Hydrogen Pioneer to exist. I am grateful for the opportunities it has given me personally, and also for the spot light it has shone on the potential this technology has for the UK’s railways.”
Photos taken by Charles Watson:
List of media coverage
UK Researchers Build Hydrogen Fueled Train
akgulian.com - ?16 hours ago?
kilometersAugust 22, 2012- A team of scientists and engineers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom have created the first ever hydrogen-fueled locomotive which was able to carry about 11 people at a distance of 2.7 kilometres. The team ...
Engineering students build U.K.'s first hydrogen-powered locomotive
R & D Magazine - ?18 hours ago?
Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed and built a prototype hydrogen-powered locomotive, the first of its kind to operate in the U.K.. This narrow gauge locomotive is a hybrid design, combining a hydrogen fuel cell and ...
UK's First Hydrogen Powered Hybrid Vehicle Gets Tested; Makes Team Leader ...
CrazyEngineers VoiCE - ?19 hours ago?
Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham are joyous. The first ever prototype of the hybrid vehicle designed by the students managed to haul 4000 kilograms, 6 times the specified load. The team now expects that the technology will be ...
Engineering students build UK's first hydrogen powered locomotive
Phys.Org - ?20 hours ago?
Engineering students build UK's first hydrogen powered locomotive. Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed and built a prototype hydrogen powered locomotive, the first of its kind to operate in the UK. This narrow gauge ...
Birmingham University Students Build UK's First Hybrid Train (PICTURES)
Huffington Post UK - ?21 hours ago?
A prototype hydrogen-powered narrow gauge locomotive has been designed, built and tested by a group of university engineering students and staff. Hailed as the first of its kind to operate in the UK, the University of Birmingham's hybrid train operates using a ...
UK's first hydrogen-powered locomotive undergoes trials
The Engineer - ?22 hours ago?
A hydrogen-powered locomotive has been trialled successfully at the Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire. Designed and built by engineering students and staff at Birmingham University, the prototype locomotive — part of a competition led by the ...
Hydrogen-powered train trialled in the UK
TheGreenCarWebsite.co.uk (blog) - ?22 hours ago?
The UK's first prototype hydrogen-powered train has made its inaugural run in the UK. Designed and built by the University of Birmingham students, the new narrow gauge locomotive uses a hybrid-type drivetrain; combining a hydrogen fuel cell and lead acid ...
Students build hydrogen locomotive
MSN News UK - ?Aug 21, 2012?
In future, non-electrified routes could be used by hydrogen powered locomotives, experts said. University engineering students and staff have designed, built and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered narrow gauge locomotive. Hailed as the first of its kind to ...
First UK hydrogen train takes passengers for a ride
New Scientist (blog) - ?Aug 21, 2012?
It may not be the most luxurious of trains, but the first hydrogen-powered locomotive in the UK has now shown that it can haul up to 4 tonnes for 2.7 kilometres. Built by a team led by Stuart Hillmansen from the University of Birmingham, UK, for a competition, ...
Engineering students design hydrogen locomotive
E&T magazine - ?Aug 21, 2012?
Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed, built and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered locomotive. The university said the narrow gauge locomotive was the first of its kind to operate in the UK. The hybrid train operates ...
Students build hydrogen locomotive
The Press Association - ?Aug 21, 2012?
Students build hydrogen locomotive. (UKPA) – 11 minutes ago. University engineering students and staff have designed, built and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered narrow gauge locomotive. Hailed as the first of its kind to operate in the UK, the University ...
Students build hydrogen locomotive
Bourne Local - ?Aug 21, 2012?
Students build hydrogen locomotive. Published on Monday 20 August 2012 15:18. Birmingham University engineering students and staff have designed, built and tested a prototype hydrogen-powered narrow gauge locomotive. Hailed as the first of its kind to ...
Youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i4zIBeKYgY