British Students Design Hydrogen-Fuel-Cell-Powered Locomotive

Engineering students and staff at the University of Birmingham have designed and built a prototype hydrogen powered locomotive, the first of its kind to operate in the United Kingdom. The locomotive has been trialled successfully at the Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire.

The locomotive is a hybrid design, equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell that powers the train’s permanent magnet electric motors. The fuel cell also funnels electricity to lead acid batteries that help meet the energy demands of the train during peak operation periods. Over 5,000 litres of hydrogen are stored in a solid state metal hydride tank at relatively low pressure, with the system typically operating at just 5 bar. This was achieved by using one of the ten advanced hydrogen storage units successfully employed on the University’s hydrogen powered canal boat, the Ross Barlow.

The locomotive is able to pull a 400-kilogram load up over 2 ,700 metres. Two additional tanks can also be added to extend the range. It also features regenerative braking to capture energy it produces, and is controlled by a wifi-enabled touchscreen remote.

Dr Stuart Hillmansen, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, faculty advisor to the team, said: ‘Our hydrogen powered locomotive is a clean and efficient example of how hydrogen power could work for future trains on non-electrified routes. We hope that our efforts will encourage the rail industry to take a closer look at this exciting technology.’  The team added that the technology, once modified, could be especially suitable, for less power-hungry applications, such as branch lines or tram services.

See how the locomotive runs here



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