Hydrogen trains are coming to the UK

14 February 2019

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In the search for low-carbon transportation solutions, ‘Breeze’ - hydrogen fuelled trains developed by Alstom, in partnership with Eversholt Rail - will be introduced to British railways from 2022.
Cassie Sims

A sketch of the hydrogen train, the Breeze, that Alstom is set to launch in the UK in 2022. Image: Alstom

The negative environmental impact of carbon-based fuels is well documented, and newer, greener alternatives are needed. Carbon-based fuels are also non-renewable – our resources are quickly diminishing. Scientists and engineers have turned to different sources of energy, including solar, wind and hydro power. However, there is one promising fuel source, which has been regularly used in the past, that could have great potential in the future of energy – hydrogen.

The hydrogen economy is being invested in by the UK government, generating new interest in the development of hydrogen-fuelled technologies. The hydrogen fuel cell is already a commercialised technology, and its efficiency and functionality are continually being improved.

The hydrogen fuel cell acts like a battery and generates its energy from a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. This reaction has much less of an environmental impact than others, as it generates energy in the form of electricity and heat, with the only side product being water.  As a fuel, hydrogen is also a much cheaper and more readily available resource than alternatives.

Currently, hydrogen fuel cells are used widely in a variety of sectors. The most interesting area of development, however, is in the transportation industry. Hydrogen-powered vehicles have already been engineered – in fact there are three accessible car models currently on the market. Fuel-cell powered buses are being trialled in several locations, but although some variants of hydrogen-fuelled large vehicles, such as trucks and aeroplanes have been designed, very few have made it to market.

All aboard!
As research continues in hydrogen technology, big steps have been made in the development of hydrogen trains. Transport engineering company Alstom has been making waves in this industry and begun launching its hydrogen trains to the public.

Alstom is a company that is committed to sustainable motility and improving the environmental footprint. They have invested heavily in transport solutions that fit these directives, nurturing and supporting innovations that are ethical, environmentally friendly and sustainable.

‘Our values and our ethical rules are a source of pride and unity at Alstom. They are one of our most valuable assets and we shall continue to draw on them as a source of strength and guidance,’ said Henri Poupart-Lafarge, Chairman and CEO of Alstom.  

Alstom have begun rolling out hydrogen trains across Germany, with more expected to appear in 2019. These trains will also be seen in other parts of Europe, including the ‘Breeze’ hydrogen train, a UK based hydrogen train project.

The Breeze train project, a collaboration between Alstom and Evershot Rail, will see the conversion of Class 321 trains into a Hydrogen Multiple Unit (HMU). Rebuilding will take place in an Alstom facility in Widnes, bringing engineering jobs to this new sector. The Breeze hydrogen train is set to arrive on the UK railways in 2022.

Hydrogen train technology is an exciting innovation which has the potential to transform our railway, making journeys cleaner and greener by cutting CO2 emissions even further. We are working with industry to establish how hydrogen trains can play an important part in the future, delivering better services on rural and inter-urban routes,’ said Andrew Jones MP, the UK’s Rail Minister.

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