YOUNG volunteers have started to strip down a Class 08 diesel shunter in preparation for its conversion to hydrogen power.
The project is the first of its kind in Britain, and is the product of a collaboration between the University of Birmingham, Birmingham-based Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions and the heritage Severn Valley Railway.
Vanguard has previously worked with the university and Porterbrook leasing on developing the HydroFLEX train. This is a conversion of an electric Class 319 unit to hydrogen power, which was unveiled in 2019.
The creation of the Harrier HydroShunter is now underway at the Severn Valley’s diesel depot in Kidderminster, where volunteers are removing the existing diesel engine and generators and overhauling other components, while Vanguard is working on the design of a hydrogen-battery hybrid traction system consisting of hydrogen cylinders, a hydrogen fuel cell stack and a hybrid battery.
The cylinders will store hydrogen as a pressurised gas, which will be fed to the fuel cell stack via a regulator. In the fuel cell stack, hydrogen will be combined with oxygen from the atmosphere to produce electricity, which will power the locomotive. Meanwhile, the battery will store energy to provide additional power for when it’s needed.
The equipment will be mounted on a sub-frame, fitted to the existing engine mountings. It will supply the traction motors of the Class 08, which will keep its existing controls.
Alex Burrows, who is director at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research and Education, said: ‘Our team at the University of Birmingham are pioneering the designs and opportunities to bring hydrogen technology to the UK railway. Following the success of our HydroFLEX project with Porterbrook that delivered the UK’s first mainline approved hydrogen train, we are thrilled to be working with the Severn Valley Railway and Vanguard to roll out the Harrier HydroShunter,’ while the SVR’s vice-chairman Mike Ball added: ‘We were delighted when the University of Birmingham asked us to get involved in this project. As a heritage railway, we’re actively looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and having a hydrogen-powered shunter will play a key part in that plan.’
Testing of the hydrogen shunter is set to start on the Severn Valley Railway later this year.