Trains may already be one of the most eco-friendly ways to travel, but a hydrogen powered train being tested in the United Kingdom could help clean up the industry even more.

At the Stapleford Miniature Railway in Leicestershire, engineering students from the University of Birmingham have successfully tested the first hydrogen-powered locomotive to operate in the country. The locomotive is a narrow-gauge hybrid, utilizing both a hydrogen fuel cell generating 1.1kW of power and lead acid battery packs generating 13kW to provide power. The fuel cell powers the train’s magnetic motors and as well as charges the electric batteries, used as boost when the engines are under heavy load. In addition, braking energy is captured and sent to the batteries, just as in the Toyota Prius.

In talking with The Engineer, team leader Stephen Kent explained how the two power sources work together to provide enough power.

“It is possible to run the motors at double their maximum rated current for short durations, as demonstrated at the Stapleford Miniature Railway, which can be very useful when accelerating a train from a standing start, for example. So, in effect, the locomotive can provide a peak power output of 8.8kW,” he said.

The prototype locomotive was built to be an entry in an engineering competition being held at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering. And while hydrogen fuel cell technology isn’t quite ready to be installed on long-distance high speed trains zooming across Europe, it is encouraging to see the first one in the UK undergoing successful testing.

“We hope that our efforts will encourage the rail industry to take a closer look at this exciting technology,” said Stuart Hillmansen, faculty advisor to the team. We do too, Stuart.

Check out a video of the students and their hydrogen-powered locomotive:

[via The Engineer]

Image Credit: University of Birmingham