Published on August 28th, 2012 | by Joshua S Hill1
First Hydrogen-Powered Locomotive Prototype
Engineering students alongside staff at the University of Birmingham in the UK have designed and built the first prototype hydrogen-powered locomotive to operate in the country, which was recently tested at the Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire as part of a competition led by the Institute of Mechanical Engineering.
The “narrow gauge locomotive” combines a hydrogen fuel cell and lead acid batteries similar to those used in cars, as well as regenerative breaking.
The fuel cell is used to power the permanent magnet electric motors as well as charge the batteries, which help meet the peak power demands when accelerating under load. Running from a solid state metal hydrite tank that stores over 5,000 litres of hydrogen, 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.
Regenerative breaking allows for the capture, storage, and re-use of breaking energy, and the train also comes fitted with adjustable air suspension and a highly advanced touchscreen remote control.
“We are really pleased with the locomotive, particularly as it managed to haul 4000kg, well over 6 times the specified load,” said Stephen Kent the Team Leader.
Dr Stuart Hillmansen, from the University of Birmingham’s School of Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, faculty advisor to the team, added: “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.”
Source: University of Birmingham