Performance evaluation of the hydrogen-powered prototype locomotive ‘Hydrogen Pioneer’

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The narrow-gauge locomotive ‘Hydrogen Pioneer’, which was developed and constructed at the University of Birmingham, was employed to establish the performance of a hydrogen-hybrid railway traction vehicle. To achieve this several empirical tests were conducted. The locomotive utilises hydrogen gas in a Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell power-plant to supply electricity to the traction motors or charge the on-board lead-acid batteries. First, the resistance to motion of the vehicle was determined, then operating tests were conducted for the speeds 2 km h−1, 6 km h−1, 7 km h−1, and 10 km h−1 on a 30 m straight, level alignment resembling light running. The power-plant and vehicle efficiency as well as the performance of the hybrid system were recorded. The observed overall duty cycle efficiency of the power-plant was from 28% to 40% and peak-power demand, such as during acceleration, was provided by the battery-pack, while average power during the duty cycle was met by the fuel cell stack, as designed. The tests establish the proof-of-concept for a hydrogen-hybrid railway traction vehicle and the results indicate that the traction system can be applied to full-scale locomotives.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-127
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Power Sources
Early online date12 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2014


  • Hybrid, Fuel cell, Rail, Vehicle efficiency, Hydrogen, Hydrail