Sustainable Energy

Designs unveiled for new hydrogen-powered trains in the UK

Key Points
  • The new hydrogen train could be used on U.K. railways by the year 2022.
  • Hydrogen-fueled train would only emit water as a byproduct. 
A digital rendering of the "Breeze" hydrogen train.
Copyright Alstom | Eversholt Rail

Transportation giant Alstom and Eversholt Rail have revealed designs for a new hydrogen train that could be used on U.K. railways by the year 2022.

In an announcement Monday, Alstom said that the train, named "Breeze," would stem from the conversion of existing Class 321 trains, which have been in use for decades. An "initial, comprehensive engineering study" has been completed, with the concept design for the train also finished, it said. 

Alstom added that the two companies were working with industry stakeholders to help develop business cases and "evaluate detailed introduction plans for fleets of these innovative trains and the associated fuelling infrastructure." Alstom said that the train would emit only water with "no harmful emissions at all."

The impact of zero emission hydrogen trains in the U.K. – where there are currently none in use – could be significant. In 2017-18, passenger services were responsible for the emission of 2,765 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent in Great Britain, according to the Office of Rail and Road. This represents a drop of 6.6 percent compared to 2016-17.

In a statement, Alstom U.K. and Ireland's Managing Director, Nick Crossfield, said that hydrogen trains offered "an ideal solution for routes which are unlikely to benefit from electrification, and our innovative engineering solution means they can now fit within the U.K. loading gauge and can quickly be ready to roll on Britain's railways."

In September 2018, Alstom announced that the "world's first hydrogen fuel cell train," the Coradia iLint, had entered into passenger service in Germany.

While the newly designed Breeze train will use the same fuel cell technology as the Coradia iLint, the architecture of the trains will differ.

This is down to a number of reasons, not least the fact that the Coradia iLint was designed by Alstom from scratch, while the Breeze will be the result of the older Class 321 trains being converted and re-purposed for use on U.K. tracks.

Andrew Jones, the U.K. government's rail minister, welcomed Monday's news. "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," he said.

"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."