A 3D view of plans for the Harrier Hydroshunter from the University of Birmingham

UK: A Class 08 diesel-electric shunting locomotive is being converted to fuel cell power by the Severn Valley Railway heritage line, the University of Birmingham and hydrogen technology specialist Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions.

‘Vanguard has developed the HydroShunter to enable cost-effective retrofitting of diesel locomotives with clean, modern hydrogen-battery traction systems’, said the company’s Chief Engineer, Charles Calvert. ‘Using hydrogen produced from renewable electricity, the Harrier will be a clean and quiet loco that just happens to also be an innovation superstar at work on one of the UK’s leading heritage railways.’

The Class 08 08635 will be the donor shunter for the project

Three-axle shunting locomotive 08635 was built at British Rail’s Derby works in 1959. Its diesel engine and generator are to be replaced with a hybrid traction system designed by Vanguard at the University of Birmingham, comprising hydrogen storage cylinders, a fuel cell stack and a battery to provide additional power when needed. The equipment will be mounted on a subframe fitted to the existing engine mountings, and the loco will retain its current traction motors and controls.

Testing will take place later this year. The partners say they expect the technology to have ‘a global significance’, and they are working towards translating it to ‘heavy haul’ applications.

Removal of part of the current engine

‘Following the success of our HydroFLEX project with Porterbrook that delivered the UK’s first main line approved hydrogen train, we are thrilled to be working with the Severn Valley Railway and Vanguard to roll out the Harrier HydroShunter’, said Alex Burrows, director of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Railway Research & Education. ‘This is another fantastic project where BCRRE has partnered with a leading heritage railway and an innovative local start-up business to pioneer our research in a real world industrial application.’