HydroFLEX attracts government grant to continue development

HydroFLEX is being developed jointly by the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook.

HydroFLEX, the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train, which is being developed by the University of Birmingham and industry partner Porterbrook, will benefit from a £400,000 grant from the Department for Transport.

The grant, which is part of InnovateUK’s First of a Kind (FOAK) programme, will enable the team to develop the detailed final production design and testing of the HydroFLEX train. Winning the FOAK 2020 programme marks an important step for the University and Porterbrook as it brings hydrogen trains one step closer to operation on the UK railway.

HydroFLEX is the world’s first hydrogen/electric hybrid train.

As well as being the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train, HydroFLEX is also the world’s first bi-mode electric/hydrogen train. It is due to undergo mainline testing on the UK network shortly.

Alex Burrows, University of Birmingham.

Alex Burrows, director of the University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE), commented: “I am really pleased that our HydroFLEX project has secured further Innovate UK funding to take its development closer to full commercialisation.

“To achieve decarbonisation of the railway we need to develop hydrogen technology, alongside electrification and batteries, as one of the means to get diesel trains off the network.

“The University of Birmingham has world class R&D capability in rail decarbonisation and I am hugely proud of our team as we continue this fantastic innovation partnership with industry to accelerate the development of clean technologies for the railway.”

Using hydrogen to power trains, along with electrification and battery technology, is one of the three means for delivering a decarbonised railway as the government sets out to remove diesel from the rail network at a time of increasing environmental awareness and action.

Mary Grant, Porterbrook.

Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO, said “I am delighted that Innovate UK is supporting the University of Birmingham as it takes HydroFLEX to the next stage.

“We have proven this technology works, now is the opportunity for government to truly energise the Green Recovery by creating a real market for a fleet of hydrogen powered passenger trains.”

The University of Birmingham is keen to continue its world-leading research in hydrogen – including application to rail – in order to meet the Government’s decarbonisation agenda.

Stuart Hillmansen, University of Birmingham.

Dr Stuart Hillmansen, Reader in Electrical Energy Systems at the University of Birmingham, said: “I am delighted that our team has received this funding to move towards a full production design of a hydrogen-powered train. 

“It demonstrates that our team can deliver world leading fundamental research, and through partnerships with industry, see the ideas through to practical realisation.  This project will have a real impact and will rapidly accelerate industry efforts to deliver a solution to replace our diesel fleet.”

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