Converted hydrogen trains could be on the UK’s railways by 2021.
An Alstom and Eversholt Rail joint venture has revealed concept designs and plans to convert Class 321 rolling stock into hydrogen powered trains of the future, operational as a soon as 2021.
Codenamed ‘Breeze’ the new trains would be converted Class 321 units, some of the UK’s most reliable rolling stock.
The characteristics, fleet size and availability for conversion to a Hydrogen Multiple Unit (HMU) make the 321 stock the ideal choice for conversion.
The trains will use a combination of a fuel cell and a lithium ion battery that gives the train a range of approximately 1,000km, similar to a typical diesel powered unit.
The fuel cell produces electricity through an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, creating water as a by-product. The batteries are used to store energy recycled from braking when the train decelerates. The water produced by the fuel cell is the only output of the reaction - no pollutants are produced directly by the train.
However, the main process of producing pure hydrogen typically involves using fossil fuels, which are hydrocarbons.
Despite still using fossil fuels in the process, the overall carbon footprint of hydrogen vehicles is still much less than conventional combustion engines.
Research is still ongoing into using electrolysis powered by renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind, to break water down into pure hydrogen and oxygen.
The next step for the partnership now the concept design is complete, is to work on developing introduction plans for fleets of the converted trains, as well as new fuelling infrastructure to support the fleet.
Rail minister Andrew Jones said the technology could transform the rail industry.
“Hydrogen train technology is an exciting innovation which has the potential to transform our railway, making journeys cleaner and greener by cutting CO2 emissions even further,” he said.
“We are working with industry to establish how hydrogen trains can play an important part in the future, delivering better services on rural and inter-urban routes.”
Minister for energy and clean growth Claire Perry said the UK was on track to the be leader for the hydrogen-economy.
“The UK is on track when it comes to growing a world-leading hydrogen economy, and through our modern Industrial Strategy we are providing £23 million to power our ambition to be the ‘go-to’ place for first-class hydrogen transport.”
“The work here is building on work Alstom has already done in Germany. There it is just about to put two new Coradia iLint hydrogen fuelled trains into service with an order for 14 more to be delivered by 2021 and 2022 together with the infrastructure needed to refuel the trains.”
Hydrogen technology isn’t limited to rail. In October highways maintenance firm Connect Plus Services teamed up with Toyota to successfully trial a hydrogen fuel-cell car on the M25.
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