The UK’s first hydrogen powered freight locomotive

Vanguard’s HydroSHUNTER locomotive represents the future of rail decarbonisation as a demonstration of how legacy rolling stock can be renewed using cutting-edge, zero-carbon solutions.

HydroSHUNTER makes use of Vanguard’s bespoke NEO1 powertrain which interfaces seamlessly with the original vehicle’s electric traction system. A uniquely specified combination of modular onboard elements including hydrogen storage, a hydrogen fuel-cell and a traction battery provide DC power to the traction motors in place of the original diesel engine.

The Class 08 locomotive on which HydroSHUNTER is based is currently in build at the Severn Valley Railway, Kidderminster, UK with the SVR’s own team of expert engineers restoring the legacy equipment and the Vanguard team installing the new drivetrain.

Steady progress has been made over the past year with pace now increasing onsite since testing began at the start of June 2024. It is intended to have all low voltage tests complete by the end of July 2024 with a view to getting wheels turning for the first time using battery only power in early August. Following successful battery testing, integration of the hydrogen storage and fuel cell will begin with a view to final commissioning in early 2025.

Many class 08 locomotives face decommissioning due to the obsolescence of their original engines, despite their otherwise reliable traction motors. It is Vanguard’s intention to build on HydroSHUNTER’s design and develop new safety standards for the use of hydrogen within rail to produce a fully mainline-approved version. It is also Vanguard’s hope to use HydroSHUNTER to inspire operators to lower their carbon footprints, save cost, and prolong the lifespan of their fleets using NEO1.

HydroSHUNTER has attracted global interest among rail operators not just for the ecological benefits, but for the long-term commercial advantages that come with prolonging existing fleets that would otherwise be replaced with more expensive, diesel-burning alternatives. As such, it is Vanguard’s intention to scale the NEO1 drivetrain to meet the demands of larger locomotives to an international market.

The HydroSHUNTER project aims not only to be a beacon for the potential of hydrogen fuel cell technology within rail, but also to act as a testbed for new technologies with plans already in place to integrate solid metal hydrides-based fuel storage early next year.

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