First UK hydrogen train

It may not be the most luxurious of trains, but the first hydrogen-powered locomotive in the UK has now shown that it can haul up to 4 tonnes for 2.7 kilometres.

Built by a team led by Stuart Hillmansen from the University of Birmingham, UK, for a competition, the hybrid design uses a hydrogen fuel cell to power electric motors and charge batteries similar to those used in cars. The batteries help keep the train going while it is accelerating, which requires more power than when it’s coasting along.

The locomotive stores hydrogen in a tank that can hold over 5000 litres at low pressure, but it could carry two more tanks to increase its range. A hydrogen-powered canal boat at the university has 10 such tanks.

The team hopes that railway operators will be inspired to consider hydrogen power on non-electrified routes. Despite being a clean source of energy, the high price of fuel cells is still one of the main hurdles to overcome. The power system used in this locomotive would cost around £5500 to buy.

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