Photo: (L-R) Jon Constable (tpgroup), Tom Chicken (Fuel Cell Systems), Jeff Allan (Vanguard STS), Kathryn Clamp (kc4business), Stuart Hillmansen (Vanguard STS), Charles Calvert (Vanguard STS) (credit: Rail Alliance)

Three innovative British companies have today announced the signing of a three-way partnership agreement to develop hydrogen fuelling solutions for the transport industry.

The three companies – Fuel Cell Systems Ltd, tpgroup and Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions – will explore opportunities to develop a range of services including on-site hydrogen generation, storage and dispensing with an initial focus on the rail sector.

The collaboration brings together three companies with a breadth of experience who will take forward a highly innovative collaboration to develop hydrogen infrastructure. This supporting infrastructure will be critical to the deployment of hydrogen as an important energy source to decarbonise the transport sector.

The signing of the three-way partnership was facilitated by kc4business bringing together these three Rail Alliance community companies to collaborate on this project.

Their initial focus is on the development of a portable, modular refuelling solution for the rail sector. This will build on the refuelling system currently being used by HydroFLEX – the UK’s first hydrogen train, developed by Porterbrook and the University of Birmingham.

By partnering in this manner, the three companies will be able to exploit their capabilities to accelerate the development of hydrogen infrastructure for the transport sector.

Charles Calvert, Chief Engineer of Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions, says,

“This partnership is a hugely exciting opportunity to accelerate the development and delivery of the supporting infrastructure needed to introduce hydrogen trains. We have built a fantastic working partnership with Fuel Cell Systems and TP Group – two fellow British companies focused on innovation and sustainability. We are looking forward to bringing to market the solutions that will enable hydrogen to play a major role in powering the future transport sector.”

Phil Cartmell, Chief Executive Officer of TP Group, says,

“We are very pleased to join the team working on the HydroFLEX project. Together the three companies bring a wealth of specialist experience and technologies and can apply these to prove the solutions in real-world situations. Our joint goal is then to explore global opportunities for hydrogen-based transport solutions, and to be an influential part of this rapidly growing market sector.”

Tom Chicken, Chief Technical Officer of Fuel Cell Systems Ltd says,

“We are delighted to be involved in this partnership to deliver innovative and practical solutions for the rail industry. Having provided the hydrogen refuelling service for the HydroFLEX project, as well as a range of modular solutions up to 700 bar for the wider transport sector, we are well placed to expand this service alongside our new partners. Hydrogen is a clean technology, with a key role to play in decarbonising the rail industry.”

Vanguard STS gives an enthusiastic welcome to the Transport Decarbonisation Plan that was published by the UK Government yesterday (14 July 2021). We fully support the view that transport is something that fundamentally shapes our quality of life far more than just travelling from one place to another – the impacts are far more reaching than that.

We were particularly struck by this sentence in the Foreword from the Secretary of State for Transport talking about the importance of transport decarbonisation as an issue, “It is millions of people literally, if slowly, being poisoned by the very air they breathe.” That is a very striking statement to make from a senior politician on the importance of taking action now to decarbonise our transport systems. Given transport is still the largest UK sector emitter of greenhouse gases at 27% of the total in 2019, it is clear that action is urgently needed.

Vanguard STS was founded in 2020 to power decarbonised transport and our particular focus is on the development and deployment of battery and hydrogen systems for transport applications. Our mission comes from our experience as part of the team that delivered the UK’s first hydrogen train to run on the UK mainline railway in September 2020 (specifically referenced in the Plan). We have a huge contribution to make to support the decarbonisation of our transport systems in the UK and globally. We welcome the UK’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan and now strongly urge the UK Government and its counterparts around the world to match words with action and investment to decarbonise transport as quickly as possible.

The UK Transport Decarbonisation Plan can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transport-decarbonisation-plan

More information on the UK’s first hydrogen train can be found here: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/railway/research/power-systems-and-energy-use/hydrogen-train-mainline.aspx

The Vanguard team are pleased to share our latest news and views on the freshly-launched UK Hydrogen Strategy.

This week Vanguard has been formally accepted as a member of the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. We are delighted to be joining our industry peers in the UK HFCA and getting involved in work and collaborations that will boost the burgeoning hydrogen economy both here in the UK and globally.

We have been reading the UK Government’s hydrogen strategy that was published earlier this week. Firstly, we are glad to see a clear understanding and recognition of the challenges and barriers that companies like Vanguard face in developing our technology and being able to scale in a relatively new sector. Our key reflection on the Strategy is the urgent need for the Government to be prepared to stand in and actively support and stimulate both the demand side for hydrogen – through enabling the development of application use cases – as well as supporting the supply side – through investment and commitment right now to enable the scaling up of hydrogen production and the rapidly-developing hydrogen supply industry.

The Strategy has an impressive list of commitments and, if delivered, they will make a huge difference. But as a start-up business investing heavily in R&D, our focus is on being able to develop and scale while being agile in order to survive and grow – multiple public consultations are not going to provide a market in the near term. The time is ripe for active support at scale right now to promote and accelerate our developing sector. We very much hope that the Government will deliver on these commitments as quickly as possible – and we will be using our position as a new UKHFCA member to play a part in championing the sector and promoting the technologies, the opportunities, and the value, that we are all creating right now for the benefit of our economy and for the environment.

We’re looking forwards to exhibiting at World Passenger Festival 2021 – come and visit us at Stand #S7!

For more information, please click here.

An Innovative UK start-up company, Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions, today announced latest progress on several headline projects that are driving forward the development of hydrogen and battery technologies to achieve rail decarbonisation.

Vanguard has been working closely with the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook to support the delivery of HydroFLEX, the UK’s first mainline-approved hydrogen train. HydroFLEX is currently taking a headline role at COP26 in Glasgow, demonstrating the application of this cutting-edge technology to support decarbonisation of railway systems in the UK and across the globe. The team at Vanguard have been supporting the HydroFLEX project team over the last twelve months with specialist design and engineering work.

Additionally, Vanguard are working in partnership with the Severn Valley Railway and the University of Birmingham to convert one of their Class 08 shunter locomotives from diesel to a clean, modern hybrid hydrogen/battery system. This project has developed with significant input from students and apprentices getting involved and learning about these new technologies and their role in delivering rail decarbonisation.

Vanguard continues its work with rolling stock projects along with delivering solutions for rapid, safe, high volume hydrogen refuelling specifically for railway application. As a result, Porterbrook have also contracted Vanguard to supply hydrogen refuelling services to the HydroFLEX project.

Rob Gibson, Vanguard Chief Operating Officer, says;

“We are delighted to have supported the University of Birmingham and Porterbrook and seeing HydroFLEX in operation at COP26 is a fantastic achievement. Our team are thrilled to have played a role in this project and to see our work in full application on the railway at this major global event.

“Vanguard is investing significantly in our research and development activities to take this technology forward towards commercial applications globally. As a UK start up we are thrilled to see our technology showcased at COP26 and look forward to building further partnerships to deliver decarbonised railways.”

Alexander Burrows, Director at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education at the University of Birmingham, says

“In just 3 years, the University and Porterbrook have designed, developed and now delivered the UK’s first hydrogen train into operation. Seeing it running at COP26 in Glasgow is a wonderful achievement and as a University we are thrilled to see our research now directly influencing policy-making and delivering a real-world impact.”

Mary Grant, CEO of Porterbrook, says;

“We are incredibly proud to work alongside some truly great British businesses, whose skills and expertise have helped us take HydroFLEX to COP26. This reflects a high level of collaboration across the private sector which in turn has been supported by our Network Rail and University of Birmingham partners. Seeing HydroFLEX in action in Glasgow is a true milestone moment as we accelerate the rail industry’s journey towards Net Zero.”

Helen Smith, Managing Director of the Severn Valley Railways, says;

“Shunter locomotives are the workhorses of our operation as a heritage railway, carrying out essential stock movements on a regular basis. The Harrier HydroShunter will be emissions-free at the point of use, and we hope to inspire other heritage rail organisations to follow our lead. The national rail network relies on its shunting stock just like we do; just imagine how much better the UK’s carbon footprint would be if they were all powered by hydrogen.”

For more information, please contact Rob Gibson (rob@vanguardsts.com)

For more information about the University and the HydroFLEX project, see www.birmingham.ac.uk/HydroFLEXmainline

For more information about the HydroShunter project and the Severn Valley Railway, see https://www.svr.co.uk/NewsItem.aspx?a=965


Meet Vanguard at NOAH Conference Zurich on 6-7 December, the leading industry event for the European growth ecosystem featuring 300 of the largest and most sustainable startups!

Don’t miss out on the early-bird special (until 14th of November) to join us, virtually or in-person: https://bit.ly/N21ZUR

Only 1 day to go!

Come and visit Vanguard at the Rail Live Start up Village – 30th Nov – 1st Dec.

More information about the event and free tickets can be found here.

UK start-up, Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions, has today been announced as the winner of ‘Best SME’ at the European Rail Clusters Initiative Innovation Awards in Berlin.

Vanguard received the award for their work on the development and commercialisation of their hybrid hydrogen/battery traction power system that can be retrofitted to diesel trains to convert them to clean power. The Vanguard team were responsible for the design of the UK’s first mainline-approved hydrogen train, HydroFLEX, and are now working with the Severn Valley Railway to convert a shunter locomotive from diesel to hydrogen.

Vanguard have also developed a refuelling system to enable rapid hydrogen fuelling onto trains – this is currently being utilised by Porterbrook to fuel the HydroFLEX train.

See more about Vanguard’s projects here.

Vanguard is a spin out company from the University of Birmingham’s world-renowned railway centre and was founded in 2020 to commercialise their expertise in developing solutions to deploy hydrogen technology onto the railway.  They are a member of the University’s BCRRE Rail Innovation Cluster, the UK member of the European Rail Clusters Initiative.

Alexander Burrows, CEO of Vanguard, said,

“On behalf of the whole Vanguard team I am absolutely delighted to accept the ERCI Innovation Award for Best SME.  In a huge category covering rail SMEs from across the whole of Europe it is an immense honour to be recognised for our work and I am so pleased for the team who have put all of their effort into our founding, development, and significant growth over the last two and a half years.

“Railways across the world need to decarbonise and modernise cost-effectively and our solutions enable them to convert existing rolling stock from dirty diesel to zero-emission hydrogen/battery technology.  By taking out emissions and re-using and modernising existing trains, we are providing a cost-effective and more sustainable solution to deliver modern, reliable trains for passengers and freight.”

The ERCI Innovation Awards took place at Innotrans in Berlin to award prizes to the best European innovations in the railway industry from those companies who submitted applications, at Technology Readiness Level 6 or above, to the annual ERCI Railway Innovation Competition.  The competition identifies the best innovation from both large enterprises (won by iXblue from France) and from small and medium enterprises.

Notes to Editors

  • For further information about Vanguard please visit vanguardsts.com / contact Alexander Burrows a.burrows@bham.ac.uk
  • European Railway Clusters Initiative – Founded in 2010, ERCI is the only railway meta-cluster network in Europe. The ERCI includes 15 major research and innovation driven railway clusters and represents over 2000 SMEs in 16 European countries. During 2022, the ERCI was registered as a legal entity with the prospect of delivering more premium content and offering more collaborative opportunities for railway sector innovation.
  • The primary objective of the ERCI is to reinforce the competitiveness of the European rail industry through cooperation between large companies, SMEs and research institutes on close-to-market innovation projects.
  • For further information about the ERCI visit: eurailclusters.com

Our project partners, the Severn Valley Railway, have released project update on the exciting HydroShunter project.

The UK HFCA’s 2023 conference will bring together representatives from the entire hydrogen value chain to focus on the UK hydrogen journey to 2030 and the achievement of the UK’s target of 10GW low carbon hydrogen capacity by that date.

Vanguard is excited to be exhibiting at the UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association’s 2023 Annual Conference at the prestigious QEII Centre in London, Westminster.

This event will bring together representatives from leading hydrogen businesses from across the entire hydrogen value chain as well as top Government representatives, the Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance Lord Callanan and Minister for Exports & Investment Lord Dominic Johnson.

The conference will consider the UK hydrogen journey to 2030 and the achievement of the UK’s target of 10GW low carbon hydrogen capacity by that date.

Vanguard looks forward to networking, exchanging perspectives and building connections across the UK hydrogen value chain, so come and visit us at stand 25.

TICKETS | UKHFCAConference2023 (ukhfca2023.co.uk).