Alstom has confirmed plans to bring its world leading hydrogen technology to trains in the UK. This is the first substantive industry response to the Government’s challenge to remove diesel rolling stock by 2040. The company is working with Eversholt Rail on plans to convert Class 321 electric trains to hydrogen operation, fitting hydrogen tanks and fuel cells to upcycle trains that are some of the best proven on the network into Britain’s most advanced rolling stock.
“Not only are hydrogen trains zero carbon, they are near-silent and emit no particulates, which means they offer substantial air quality and noise pollution benefits too. On cost, hydrogen trains can help to avoid the necessity for line electrification, which represents a significant investment for customers.
“We think the potential long-term application of hydrogen in the UK is very significant. Less than 50 per cent of the UK network is electrified, and much that isn’t electrified is unlikely ever to be so. Starting with this conversion, we think hydrogen could offer the right zero carbon solution for many parts of the network,” said Nick Crossfield, Managing Director, Alstom UK & Ireland.
Alstom is the first company to introduce a regional train based on hydrogen fuel cells and batteries. The Coradia iLint is the first Alstom hydrogen train, on test already in Germany. Nearly a third of all the UK’s trains are diesel trains, which will need to be replaced or refurbished to hit the Government’s target of no diesel rail vehicles by 2040.
Hydrogen can be produced using sustainable electricity and electrolysis or through industrial processes. The fuel cell on the train produces electricity through a combination of hydrogen and oxygen to create water. The electrical energy is intermediately stored in batteries and the train is powered by an electrical traction drive. The only exhaust is steam and condensed water.
The first ever electric train has travelled between Birmingham and Bromsgrove. The West Midlands Railway train made the historic journey on Sunday 20 May to test the newly installed overhead power lines, ahead of a full electric service being introduced later this summer.
Richard Brooks, customer experience director for West Midlands Railway, said: “There is still more work to be done but the test train is a major step towards giving Bromsgrove the extra services the town needs. These are exciting times for the region. Rail travel in the West Midlands has never been more popular. We are investing almost £1 billion to create more and better journeys, helping to shape and support the region’s economy and identity.”
The upgrade and electrification of the railway to Bromsgrove by Network Rail is part of the Railway Upgrade Plan. When the work is completed, West Midlands Railway is to operate an extra three trains every hour. Currently the town has two trains per hour in the peak and just one train per hour off-peak.
The testing also marks the permanent switch on of the overhead power lines, which carry 25,000v of electricity, 24 hours a day. Local communities are being urged to be well aware of this additional safety hazard and the added danger it poses should anyone choose to trespass on the railway.
Quiet, clean and fast
The MTU Hybrid PowerPack from Rolls-Royce could be used on the Lake Constance Belt Railway (Bodenseegürtelbahn) in Germany and simultaneously provide environmentally friendly, economic and reliable rail operations even before electrification of the line. These are the findings of simulations that have been carried out by MTU on behalf of the Lake Constance Belt Railway community of interest (Interessenverband Bodenseegürtelbahn). Local emission-free operations, in urban areas and tunnels, for example, are feasible. Compared with a train driven by diesel engines alone, CO2 emissions can be reduced by up to 20 per cent using the hybrid drive system on this route. Generally speaking, these findings are also applicable to other routes. On an MTU test bench, the route between Radolfzell and Friedrichshafen was covered with a real-life Hybrid PowerPack and a computer-simulated environment (consisting of vehicle and route). It was shown that trains equipped with the MTU hybrid drive were able to keep to current tim tables and timetables required in the future.
The MTU Hybrid PowerPack is a high-tech product from Friedrichshafen and the result of collaboration between Rolls-Royce Power Systems and ZF Friedrichshafen. It combines the following components to produce an intelligent drive system: a modern MTU diesel engine with exhaust gas after treatment, which meets current emission regulations in addition to the future EU Stage V that will come into force as of 2021, an innovative ZF automatic transmission, an electric motor that recovers energy in braking mode and also serves as a drive unit, and an advanced battery system to store the recovered brake energy. The Hybrid PowerPack has demonstrated its reliability, for example, in real-life test runs with a length of around 15,000 kilometres.
“With the Hybrid PowerPack, we are offering an environmentally-friendly rail drive solution that combines the benefits of battery and diesel-driven trains,” said Lars Kräft, Vice President Industrial Business at Rolls-Royce Power Systems.