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Seventh International Hydrail Conference

The 7th International Hydrail Conference will be hosted by the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education at the Edgbaston Campus of the University of Birmingham on the 3rd and 4th of July 2012. This year's conference will focus on the current status of projects around the world; technology innovations; and environmental, climate, and economic drivers of the transition to a hydrogen-powered railway.


Confirmed keynote speakers are Professor Kevin Kendall FRS of the University of Birmingham and Jeff Allan, Head of Delivery Control Command & Signalling and Energy at the Rail Safety Standards Board Ltd. Conference sessions include presentations on topics such as:

  • Hydrail Prototypes
  • Hydrail Life-Cycle Impacts
  • Hydrogen Fuel for Rail Applications
  •  Fuel Cell Power Systems For Rail

For more information and registration click here




4 people have had something to say so far

As one of the Hydrail Conference planners, here is a little background information.

These conferences were conceived as a means of achieving mutual awareness among the scientists, engineers and government agencies working on hydrail projects around the world.

Late in 2007 I made a hydrail presentation in Atlanta to the US Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA). In my handout, calculated that causing the world transition from petroleum to hydrogen to commence just one year earlier can leave over 3 billion US barrels of crude unextracted and keep 215 million US tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

About 16 countries, the European Commission and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization have presented at the first six Hydrail Conferences in the US, Denmark, Spain and Turkey.

Far and away the greatest impediment to hydrail progress is the media propagated myth that hydrogen technology is automotive-specific.

Steam trains anticipated steam autos by 65 years.

Diesel trains anticipated diesel autos for the public by 50 years.

Electric trains anticipated electric cars by about 15 years.

Yet the media insist that luxury-priced, early adopter consumer H2 cars are to indefinitely precede hydrail trains, never mind their ubiquitous support needs, such as fueling and repair!
Posted on 28/03/12 05:47.
We used to have big Caterpillar generator sets that could run on gas or diesel, dual fuel, so it doesn't seem too high tech to have a big diesel locomotive running on gas and a wagon converted for gas storage.
The gas would be methane, or propane/butane, all hydrocarbons producing water and CO2 but pure hydrogen only produces water which appears to be the target.
The bits I have trouble with in this technology is where the hydrogen is coming from and what happens in an accident, diesel might spill out but normally won't burn easily, but hydrogen...

It would be good to see more action and less talking, if we look at the attempts at flying, or at steam powered rail, or cars, we see attempts, trials, feasibility studies, proof of concept, but all we see these days are conferences, workshops and never ending discussion, and the reason is that the practical experienced skilled engineers are getting fewer and fewer and older.

As an engineer and inventor I am aware that no one wants to try new ideas, I spend my days trying to build all kinds of equiment from scrap and home made parts. There is no risk capital or funding for lone inventors in the UK but I can see that in the US there are guys making wood gas conversions using home made parts.
I spend a lot of my time trying persuade universities to build prototypes & proof of concept, but even when ideas are eagerly accepted and understood at the engineer & academic level, they die when committees of accountants, VCs & government innovation quangos appear.

The best way to test if hydrogen powered trains are feasible is to make one.
Posted on 29/03/12 22:54.
Thanks for your insight, Tony!
Re the safety aspect, liquid carbon based and heavier-than-air (propane) fuels tend to pool up and incinerate whatever is above as news footage often shows. Hydrogen, as the lightest substance in the universe, rushes up, up and away from mishaps.

You are right in saying the best way way to see if hydrogen trains are feasible is to build one:
Google: bnsf + "hh-1205" (the US version, 2009)
Google: feve + tranvía + hidrógeno (the Spanish version that goes into revenue service this year)
Google: "China's first new-energy fuel cell light-rail" (China's version, 2010)

The media's insistence that hydrogen is an automotive technology has set hydrail back by many years in the USA and perhaps in the UK as well.

It's time engineers such as yourself set the record straight!
Google: "ieee + streetcar + revival"
Posted on 04/05/12 21:33 in reply to Tony Smee.
Hi Stan,
Must agree about the media, they set everything back many years because they are all arts and humanities students, no engineers around.
Engineers setting the record straight? I wish I could set the record straight in many areas not only on hydrail, in the UK engineering is very poorly represented in the government, in board rooms, in the media, in education, and worst of all in the Technology Strategy Board, a quango charged with stimulating innovation and creativity in technology, engineering and manufacturing.

The IET & IMechE have failed to get their voices heard in these top level places which are occupied by accountants & economists, lawyers and chancers from the old schoolboys network.
Consequently the UK is stuck with a never ending round of meetings, conferences, discussions, inquiries and consultants reports about hydrail while the US, China, and even Spain get on with some practical demonstrations.

In fact in this case there is no need for demonstrations, the technology is known, and already demonstrated. Not too sure how feasible it is to convert an existing diesel locomotive to run on hydrogen. Might need an extra carriage to carry a few hundred hydrogen cylinders. This assumes a regular piston engine but hydrogen fuel cell technology producing electricity for a 2000kW locomotive or marine propulsion might present a few challenges.The sources of hydrogen would presumeably be coordinated with the renewable industry and produce hydrogen by electrolysis of water. Bit pointless to use electricty from coal, gas or oil.

The worst consequence of the lack of experienced practical skilled engineers in high places is the lack of coordination of development and lack of planning for the future, and hydrogen technology is no different, it won't stand alone.

The lack of coordination of services in the past has cost hundreds of billions of pounds. Pipelines could have been installed as motorways and railways were being built with ducts, channels and tunnels for future developments such as broadband cables. We have a gas grid, a fuel pipeline system, an electricity grid, a telephone network, railway and motorway network, water and sewage but no coordination of digging trenches, backfilling and road congestion. The country has a huge network of water pipes thousands of miles, with hundreds of pumping stations but no one thought to arrange them so as to pump water from the north to the south.
Posted on 05/05/12 01:01.

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