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HydroFLEX hydrogen powered train

Experts at the University of Birmingham have welcomed today’s announcement by Network Rail that it will be showcasing the hydrogen-powered HydroFLEX train at the COP26 Climate Change Conference.

HydroFLEX was developed by the University’s Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) in partnership with rolling stock owner and asset manager, Porterbrook

Since its first successful mainline test run in September 2020, work has been underway to get HydroFLEX ready to operate as a commercial passenger train.

Investment from Innovate UK allowed the research team to develop the detailed design of the fully functional power and energy fuel cell system on board the train.  This included the architecture of the power control system which operates the fuel cell and energy storage system in an optimum manner.  More recently, the team has modified the design of the hydrogen powerpack, enabling it to be fully integrated into the train system.

HydroFLEX also draws on expertise from a wide number of industrial partners. This collaborative success story is now well on course to make a significant contribution to the Government’s rail decarbonisation aims.

Alex Burrows, Director of BCRRE, said: “The HydroFLEX project has been a fantastic example of collaboration between industry and academia to accelerate the development of this innovative technology from research to market introduction.  The use of green hydrogen as an energy source to replace diesel on the railway is a great opportunity to accelerate the decarbonisation of our transport networks.”

Dr Stuart Hillmansen, Reader in Railway Traction Systems at the University of Birmingham, says: “The HydroFLEX project is based on ground-breaking research into hydrogen-powered trains at the University of Birmingham.  Tested last year on the GB mainline, HydroFLEX is now accelerating towards an in-service train which could be deployed rapidly into passenger service. We envisage hydrogen becoming a vital fuel that will be used alongside ongoing efforts to electrify the railway system, provide autonomous traction in a decarbonised railway.

“We are excited that this fundamental research has been quickly taken up by Porterbrook and the fully functional first in class is now in the detailed delivery phase, ready to be demonstrated to the industry and world at COP 26.”

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  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • BCRRE is Europe’s largest academic-based group delivering railway science and education. With over 145 academics, researchers and professional support staff, BCRRE provides world-class research and thought leadership within railways, and offers an expanding portfolio of high-quality education programmes, including Rail and Rail Systems Level 6 and 7 degree apprenticeships. In 2018 BCRRE became lead partner in the £92m UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) and in 2019, it absorbed the activities of the Rail Alliance into its offering, increasing its breadth of support for innovation and growth in the rail industry. Contact BCRRE.