Chiltern Railways HybridFLEX DMU 168329 (Photo Tony Miles) (2)

UK: Rolls-Royce and Porterbrook have signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate the potential use of synthetic and net zero fuels in internal combustion engines and fuel cells.

The companies will also explore the potential for ‘advanced hybridisation’, based on their experience with the HybridFLEX diesel multiple-unit now in passenger services with Chiltern Railways which uses a battery to store regenerated braking energy.

The partners will also look at the role of the wider rail ecosystem in decarbonisation, including fuel chain supply, infrastructure and operational models.

Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems business is currently developing hydrogen-fuelled engines for power generation, and is working on fuel cells for ships and heavy-duty off-highway vehicles. Last year it committed to release versions of its most popular diesel engines suitable for use with sustainable fuels by 2023; this will included conversion kits available enabling its MTU Series 4000 engines to run on 100% hydrogen.

‘We have extensive experience of rail technology and are able to draw upon expertise from across our business in new net zero and zero emissions technologies for safety critical applications’, said Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East on February 14. ‘This relationship with Porterbrook will help us further understand the options for decarbonising rail transport.’