Public transport accounts for about a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, the government has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050. And one of the proposed actions to achieve this goal comes from the University of Birmingham, which is developing a hydrogen-powered train. Germany pioneered this type of transport when it launched the Coradia iLint, the world’s first hydrogen-powered train.
The use of hydrogen is essential to help decarbonize the railways. Hydrogen powered trains do not emit gases that are harmful to the environment; on the contrary, this transport uses hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat.
The University of Birmingham project received £ 750,000 support from the UK Department of Transport to move the project forward – which is being carried out in partnership with the company Porterbrook.
The train used in the tests is called HydroFLEX and was equipped with hydrogen fuel cells, which are activated on non-electrified routes. To convert the electric vehicle into hydrogen, hydrogen and battery tanks were installed, capable of providing independent traction force to operate with zero carbon emissions. These trains are expected to start receiving passengers in 2023.
The Department of Transportation has commissioned a project – to be carried out by the Mott MacDonald group – to understand the feasibility of using hydrogen in transport. Scheduled for publication in January, the project could pave the way for the adoption of hydrogen as the main fuel to supply buses, heavy vehicles, rail, sea and air transport across the UK.
The goal is for the region to become a global leader in research for the use of hydrogen as a fuel, as well as a development center for hydrogen transport in general.
Hydrogen as a fuel
Vehicles powered by hydrogen cells can be refueled as quickly as those using gasoline or ethanol. In addition, hydrogen allows greater autonomy on longer trips, when compared to traditional fuels.
The problem is that hydrogen filling stations are still very expensive. It is estimated that a post could cost around US $ 2 million, so companies have been reluctant to build them. However, for these gas stations to become viable, it will be necessary to have more hydrogen-powered vehicles circulating on the streets and roads.