The Anonymous Widower

Will We See Class 43 Power Cars Converted To Hydrogen?

To say that the Class 43 power cars of the InterCity 125 trains are iconic is rather an understatement.

Note.

They were built by British Rail in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

  • They have an operating speed of 125 mph.
  • They are now powered by a modern MTU 16V4000 R41R diesel engine after being re-engined earlier this century.
  • They have an electric transmission.

According to Wikipedia, there are over a hundred and twenty in service.

At the back of the power car there is a lot of space, as this picture shows.

This press release from Rolls-Royce is entitled Rolls-Royce Launches mtu Hydrogen Solutions For Power Generation.

These are the introductory bullet points to the press release.

  • From 2022 mtu Series 500 and Series 4000 ready for 25% hydrogen
  • From 2023 mtu engines and conversion kits available for 100% hydrogen

And what engine is there in a Class 43 power car? – It’s an MTU 16V4000 R41R diesel engine.

Is it an mtu Series 4000 engine?

If it is, there is space in the back of the power car for the hydrogen tank and the diesel engine can be converted to run on hydrogen, Rolls-Royce have everything they need break the speed record for hydrogen-powered trains. After all power cars; 43102 and 43159 hold the diesel-train speed record at 148 mph.

That would be some Roller.

December 24, 2021 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. Looking at the Rolls-Royce press release it talks about “developing its mtu gas engine portfolio for power generation and cogeneration to run on hydrogen as a fuel.”
    Although both the HST and these gas engines are Series 4000, the detailed design of the combustion chambers and duty cycles of a generator and a rail vehicle with its potential impact on NOx emissions are sufficiently different for the question to be raised about the practicality of using the gas engine.
    Assuming all the foregoing is surmountable the use of the baggage area of the HST power car as supplementary hydrogen storage (the space vacated by the diesel tank beneath the sole bar can also be used) would be viable. It would be better to select a GWR vehicle equipped with a Voith Cooler Group simply because it’s shorter than the alternative Brush Cooler Groups fitted in other MTU-installed HSTs. The added length of the Brush group reduces the available volume of the baggage area because it requires one of the traction motor blowers and with the emergency couplers to be relocated.

    Comment by fammorris | December 25, 2021 | Reply

    • I suspect too, that the power and distance requirements of the Class 43 power cars in use at the present time are a lot less demanding than when the trains were in their prime. Most trundle around these days at around 80 mph.

      But after Rolls-Royce’s use of Spirit of Innovation to break the speed record for electric aircraft, I wouldn’t rule out a run to set the speed record for hydrogen-powered trains.

      I wonder how many freight locomotives, there are around the world powered by mtu diesels?

      Comment by AnonW | December 25, 2021 | Reply

      • Indeed you can never discount the possibility of the Class 43’s future, after all in the late 1980s the lead purchasing manager at BRB told me that the HST fleet would be withdrawn in the following decade.
        Although not a comprehensive answer to your question the Rolls-Royce link below shows just how many MTU engines have been sold to the Chinese for re-export as part of locomotives bound for countries such as Argentina, New Zealand and Australia
        https://www.mtu-solutions.com/eu/en/stories/rail/locomotives/the-dragon-rides-the-rails.html
        In addition the Chinese initially imported 4000 Series engines for rail applications but latterly they have been built under licence for their domestic market. This combined market accounts for many hundreds of engines.
        A cursory glance at Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens enabled me to identify around 700 locomotives equipped with 4000 Series engines.

        Comment by fammorris | December 25, 2021

      • Porterbrook leased a HST to BCRRE Birmingham Uni in 2019 for research into alternative fuels, both firms developed the hydroFLEX train. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/railway/news/2019/university-birmingham-leases-porterbrook-high-speed-train.aspx

        Comment by jason leahy | December 25, 2021

      • Yes Jason Leahy this was 43056. The University of Birmingham it as a vehicle to investigate alternative fuels, however they don’t seem to have done anything of note with it and as of a fleet list dated August 2021 it was back down at Laira depot in Plymouth. In November 2021, the power car was donated to the Welsh Railways Trust based at the Gwili Railway.
        While on the subject of HSTs used for trials I’m reminded of the diesel-battery hybrid trial
        that Brush Traction and Hitachi conducted with the Paxman Valenta powered 43089. I don’t know if it retained the hybrid arrangement when it was returned to normal service with East Midlands Trains, but it is now in the hands of the 125 Group.

        Comment by fammorris | December 25, 2021

  2. Rolls-Royce are also developing the 2.5 MW diesel-engine alternative, which is their beer keg-sized gas-turbine powered generator, based on a Super Hercules engine. Like all gas-turbines, it would be possible to be modified to run on hydrogen.

    If I was designing a freight locomotive, it would be hydrogen-electric with one or two of these in the body.

    Comment by AnonW | December 25, 2021 | Reply

    • As you are a proponent of the gas turbine I thought you might find this link entitled
      Gazoturbovoz At The End Of The Road of interest https://www.railvolution.net/news/gazoturbovoz-at-the-end-of-the-road
      Not exactly the representative of western gas turbine technology I’ll grant you, and not running on hydrogen but it is the most recent effort to introduce gas turbines in a freight loco to the railway.

      Comment by fammorris | December 25, 2021 | Reply

  3. Yes Jason Leahy this was 43056. The University of Birmingham it as a vehicle to investigate alternative fuels, however they don’t seem to have done anything of note with it and as of a fleet list dated August 2021 it was back down at Laira depot in Plymouth. In November 2021, the power car was donated to the Welsh Railways Trust based at the Gwili Railway.
    While on the subject of HSTs used for trials I’m reminded of the diesel-battery hybrid trial
    that Brush Traction and Hitachi conducted with the Paxman Valenta powered 43089. I don’t know if it retained the hybrid arrangement when it was returned to normal service with East Midlands Trains, but it is now in the hands of the 125 Group.

    Comment by fammorris | December 25, 2021 | Reply


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