University of Birmingham hydrogen technology showcased at the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Summit

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HydroFLEX at COP26_720
Birmingham Mayor Andy Street with BCRRE Director Alex Burrows

The UK’s first mainline approved hydrogen train is operating in Glasgow at the COP26 Climate Change Summit to demonstrate its role in driving the green industrial revolution.

Developed by engineers at the University of Birmingham Railway Research and Education Center (BCRRE), in partnership with the wagon owner and asset manager PorterbrookThe HydroFLEX train is now ready to offer zero-emission passenger transport services to the next phase of its journey.

Experts at BCRRE have been involved every step of the way in the design and development of hydrogen technology and its application to rail. Since HydroFLEX was first designed in 2018, the project has evolved rapidly from the collaboration agreement in September 2018 to full mainline test runs in September 2020.

In just three years, the team (with Innovate UK funding) developed and demonstrated the detailed design of a fully functional hybrid hydrogen fuel cell system and battery system on the train. They were also able to design the architecture of the power control system that optimally runs the fuel cell and energy storage system. More recently, the team has worked to alter the design of the hydrogen power pack to allow it to be fully integrated into the train system.

Alex Burrows, Director of Venture and Innovation at BCRRE, said: “Hydrogen and battery technology is key to supporting the UK’s Green Industrial Revolution plans and delivering on our Net Zero commitments, as demonstrated in our HydroFLEX train. This project showcased our capabilities at the University and our technology is now proven and shows that we can rapidly decarbonize railways. We are excited to be able to share this progress at the United Nations COP26 Climate Change Summit.”

The HydroFLEX project is also at the heart of the West Midlands’ commitment to building a zero-emissions transport system. West Midlands Mayor Andy Street will outline the area’s ambitious green transport plans at a COP26 Roadshow event on Thursday (November 11th).

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said: “The West Midlands region was at the center of the first steam and coal industrial revolution. By repaying this debt, we are making a major commitment to green and low-carbon technologies and transportation by making the West Midlands the ‘Home of the Green Industrial Revolution’.”

HydroFLEX also draws on the expertise of many industrial partners. This collaborative success story is well on its way to making a significant contribution to the Government’s targets for rail decarbonisation.

Beyond HydroFLEX, researchers at BCRRE are identifying other areas where their hydrogen fuel expertise could be used to enable low-carbon shipping globally. A project currently underway will see the team develop new traction systems for sustainable railways in low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Clive Roberts, head engineering school At the University of Birmingham, he said: “With HydroFLEX we were able to demonstrate the enormous potential for hydrogen-fueled green rail transport – but the story does not end with HydroFLEX’s commercial success. For example, we are already looking at technologies that could enable sustainable rail travel in low-income countries, including hydrogen.”

As diesel is phased out in transport networks globally, we need to find new possibilities that will be cost-effective and enable low-income countries to develop and adopt sustainable technologies.”

Notes for editors

  • For media inquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked among the top 100 institutions in the world. His work brings people from all over the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.
  • BCRRE Europe’s largest academically based group offering railway science and education. With over 160 academics, researchers and professional support staff, BCRRE provides world-class research and thought leadership in railways and an expanding portfolio of high-quality training programs, including Rail and Rail Systems Level 6 and 7 degree apprenticeships. In 2018 BCRRE became the lead partner of the £92m UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) and in 2019 increased its support for innovation and growth in the railway industry by incorporating the activities of the Railway Alliance into its offerings. Contact: BCRRE.