Harnessing innovation like this will be crucial in making our railways greener and cleaner in the future.”. As well as being the UK’s first hydrogen-powered train, HydroFLEX is also the world’s first bi-mode electric hydrogen train. Engineers at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education, Porterbrook’s partner on the Hydroflex, are working on ways to extend these limits. Hydrogen, along with electrification and battery technology, is one of the three means for delivering a decarbonised railway. Formula E completes its most challenging season yet. These space constraints are one reason that Porterbrook chose to retrofit older train models with the hydrogen fuel power system, rather than construct entirely new vehicles like the Alstom did in Germany – the existing trains were already made to measure for the tunnels they had to pass through. The mainline testing of HydroFLEX marks an important step in the development of a zero-carbon emission propulsion system that could help to decarbonise Britain’s railway. But the engineers emphasise that Hydroflex is not just a demonstration of hydrogen-power technology – it is set to become a viable commercial train, with mainline testing expected to begin in March or April this year. Electrolysis creates hydrogen by separating oxygen from water using an electric current. In one of its cars, passengers were encouraged to perch around four hydrogen fuel tanks, a fuel cell and two lithium batteries. It will be undergoing mainline testing on the UK railway in the next few weeks. Many collaborators have been key to the success of HydroFLEX so far: Chrysalis Rail for installation, Denchi Group for traction batteries, Ballard Fuel Cell Systems for the fuel cell, Luxfer for hydrogen storage tanks, DG8 design support, Derby Engineering Unit for panels and brackets, SNC Lavalin for design and hazard identifications, Aura for exterior livery design and DB Cargo Crewe for the recommissioning of the unit. • In October 2014, the Porterbrook Group of companies was acquired by a consortium of investors including Alberta Investment Management Corporation (“AIMCo”), Allianz Capital Partners (“ACP”) on behalf of certain insurance companies of the Allianz Group, EDF Invest and a consortium of Utilities Trust of Australia (“UTA”), The Infrastructure Fund (“TIF”) and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Pension Fund (“RBS”). The company continues to invest across its existing fleets to ensure they remain attractive to operators and passengers. 799001, extensively modified from dual-voltage EMU No. Mary Grant, Porterbrook CEO said: “Sustainability and innovation are integral to what we do here at Porterbrook, and so we are tremendously proud to have played a key role in designing and building the UK’s first hydrogen train. Some apprehension around hydrogen as a fuel source is perhaps understandable considering the unfortunate history of hydrogen-filled dirigibles, namely airships such as the ill-fated British R101 and the German Hindenburg. The cheapest and most common method at present uses natural gas and high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen. In-line with its commitment to use innovation to tackle railway infrastructure challenges and improve the industry’s environmental credentials, Porterbrook is leading the development of a first ever UK retrofit project to convert electric multiple unit Class 319 units into electric-diesel bi-mode units. The project demonstrates a practical application of hydrogen in a full size passenger train in line with the decarbonisation challenges set by government. The leftover part of the hydrogen molecule reacts with oxygen at the cathode and becomes the waste product – water. The electrons are then forced through a circuit that generates an electric charge that can be stored in lithium batteries or sent directly to the train’s electric motor. “While hydrogen has a lot of energy per mass, because it is super light, it also takes up a lot of volume,” says Raphael Isaac, a researcher on fuel alternatives in rail at Michigan State University's Center for Railway Research and Education. electricity from solar photovoltaics and electrolysis of water,” says Margaret S. Wooldridge, an aerospace engineer at the University of Michigan. The concept of HydroFLEX was first introduced in Rail Live 2018. Credit: University of Birmingham. In October 2014, the Porterbrook Group of companies was acquired by a consortium of investors including Alberta Investment Management Corporation (“AIMCo”), Allianz Capital Partners (“ACP”) on behalf of certain insurance companies of the Allianz Group, EDF Invest and a consortium of Utilities Trust of Australia (“UTA”), The Infrastructure Fund (“TIF”) and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Pension Fund (“RBS”).