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Porterbrook HydroFLEX

The way forward to completely de-carbonise the rail network

Porterbrook HydroFLEX - UK’s First Hydrogen Powered Train

Working in close partnership with the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), Porterbrook have developed the UK’s first hydrogen powered train – the HydroFLEX.
In just nine months from concept to launch at RailLive in June 2019, the team designed, developed, built, commissioned and carried out a low speed test operation of a fully working hydrogen fuel cell train.

Addressing UN Sustainable Development Goals

0.0 grams

of C02 emitted by Hydrogen powered trains

36.6 grams

C02 emitted by diesel locomotives

16,675 acres

of forests. in terms of carbon capture, preserved by full conversion to Hydrogen trains

“Sustainability and innovation are integral to what we do here at Porterbrook, and so we are tremendously proud to have played a key role in designing and building the UK’s first hydrogen train. This is a first test but we are excited about being in a position to provide HydroFLEX as a viable offering very soon. Britain’s railway should progressively and quickly engage in efforts to reduce transport emissions and we are committed to help our customers to achieve this ambition.”

Mary Grant, CEO, Porterbrook

The project demonstrates a practical application of hydrogen in a full size passenger train in line with the decarbonisation challenges set by the UK government. Based on a Class 319 electric unit, the train is now fitted with hydrogen fuel tanks, a fuel cell and battery pack to provide independent traction power capable of operation with zero carbon emissions.

Situation

The UK rail industry faces challenges in reducing its carbon footprint but cannot rely upon electrification alone due to both financial and location suitability constraints.
In addition, as a means of decarbonisation, the electrification of the rail network is diminished by the ongoing use of fossil fuels for electricity.

Action

Working in close partnership with the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), Porterbrook have developed the UK’s first hydrogen powered train – the HydroFLEX.
In just nine months from concept to launch at RailLive in June 2019, the team designed, developed, built, commissioned and carried out a low speed test operation of a fully working hydrogen fuel cell train.

The project demonstrates a practical application of hydrogen in a full-size passenger train in line with the decarbonisation challenges set by government. Based on a Class 319 electric unit, the train is now fitted with hydrogen fuel tanks, a fuel cell and battery pack to provide independent traction power capable of operation with zero carbon emissions.

Financing Model: Consortium

Since October 2014, the Porterbrook group of companies has been wholly owned and managed by six long-term institutional infrastructure investors: AIMCO (30%), Allianz (30%), EDF Invest (10%), UTA (15%), RBSGPF (7.5%), TIF (7.5%)

Introducing the Flex Concept

The Flex concept, pioneered by Porterbrook, aims to use state of the art technology to reuse existing rail assets, thereby preventing the economic and environmental impact of creating a brand new fleet of trains.

Innovation & Infrastructure 

The key to the success of the HydroFLEX project has been collaboration with a variety of different innovators:
• Chrysalis Rail for installation
• Denchi Group for traction batteries
• Ballard Power Systems for the fuel cell
• Luxfer for hydrogen storage tanks
• DG8 design support
• Derby Engineering Unit for panels and brackets
• SNC Lavalin for design and hazard identifications
• Aura for exterior livery design
• dB Cargo Crewe for the recommissioning of the unit

Benefits to the country

This exciting concept will result in passenger trains offering performance that can match or exceed the diesel fleets they replace, significantly raise air-quality, and offer a cost effective alternative to commissioning brand new trains. The project fitted a fuel cell system to a Class 319 train, which will allow the train to run on conventional electrified routes, as well as independently. This will make the train both flexible, as it can run on any of UK rail lines, but also clean when moving on to power from hydrogen. More so, despite the retrofit, the operation did not require a modification of the drivers’ controls.

Benefits to communities

  • The revolutionary fuel cell technology has the potential to address the challenges around decarbonisation of the railways and the HydroFlex demonstrates how the private sector railway and educational bodies can jointly deliver real benefits to passengers, train operators and communities.
  • Benefit of no air pollution emitted.