Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Rollingstock

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Rollingstock

Hydrogen fuelled rollingstock takes to UK track

HydroFLEX is the first hydrogen-powered train to operate on the UK's network.

The project was initiated by rolling stock owner Porterbrook and the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education in response to the UK government’s challenge to remove diesel-only trains from the national network by 2040.

Using a Class 319 electric multiple unit, the HydroFLEX demonstrator unit was fitted with hydrogen fuel tanks, a fuel cell and battery pack to provide a source of traction power capable of operating with zero carbon emissions to decarbonise passenger rail transport.

In September 2020 the first HydroFLEX unit successfully started the first phase of mainline testing.

HydroFLEX mainline operations

Safety and Certification expertise

The fuel cell powered HydroFLEX unit is powered by hydrogen gas stored in high pressure tanks and oxygen sourced from ambient air. The cell combines these gases to generate electricity. Up to 100kW is generated for traction while only emitting only pure water.

Two lithium-ion battery packs store the generated electrical energy which then powers the train’s existing traction system and motors. 

Before testing the vehicle's performance on Network Rail's mainline infrastructure, HydroFLEX needed to be approved by an EN17065 accredited certification body and an EN17020 accredited inspection body.

Ricardo fulfilled both requirements. Our rolling stock experts prepared the vehicle's Safety Case. Colleagues in Ricardo Certification, (an independent accredited business within the Ricardo group), undertook an assessment in accordance with RIS-2700-RST, producing an Attestation Statement along with the Safety Assessment Report as the project’s appointed Assessment Body.

A viable alternative to diesel only fleets

The demonstrator unit aims to prove how a hydrogen powered train could safely operate on electrified track sections with energy drawn from an overhead catenary or conductor rail, and then transition seamlessly to hydrogen power for sections or entire branch lines that are yet to be electrified.

This flexibility of traction power supply would enable the UK industry to phase out diesel powered passenger trains long before a nationwide electrification programme could be completed.

Hydrogen journeys continue

The HydroFLEX project continues with further improvements targeted at allowing it to replicate the duty cycles of existing diesel trains. The new HydroFLEX vehicle was demonstrated at November’s COP26 climate summit.

If you'd like to learn more about our hydrogen or our certification and assurance areas then please contact us to help with your decarbonisation challenges.