The Anonymous Widower

Could The Bombardier Voyagers Be Converted To Hydrogen Power?

Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry and East Midlands Trains all run versions of Bombardier Voyager trains.

  • There are 103 sets in service.
  • Lengths are four, five and seven cars.
  • They are 125 mph trains.
  • They are powered by one Cummins QSK19 diesel engine in each car.

Given Cummins’s enthusiasm for hydrogen could these diesel engines be converted to hydrogen power, so the trains could run long distance routes on zero-carbon power?

If there is no need for them in the UK, there are probably lots of places in the world that would like them!

April 8, 2023 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Yes, theoretically, but they won’t be. There isn’t enough room inside one to fit a 750hp Hydrogen power-pack, plus enough hydrogen fuel to make this a reality. The failure of the Class 600 (Breeze) project should give you a clue that converting old trains into hydrogen units isn’t the path to go down. The breeze project was cancelled last year, in favour of a new build Hydrogen Aventra.

    Comment by Duncan Wilson | April 8, 2023 | Reply

    • I would use the same engines converted to hydrogen, which I suspect Cummins know how to do.

      In recent years some very good ways of storing hydrogen have been developed.

      I like this one.

      Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Tank – SHyFT

      Comment by AnonW | April 8, 2023 | Reply

      • It’s still not a practical prospect. The Cummins QSK19 isn’t exactly the most efficient engine going. Hydrogen is also much less energy dense than diesel per unit of volume. Hydrogen trains are practically limited to 100mph as any higher speeds requires too much fuel to be carried in a practical manner, to achieve a practical range. Remember, it takes twice the energy, and therefore twice the fuel to reach and maintain 125mph than it does to reach and maintain 100mph. It’s a great idea on paper, and could work in an Electro-Hydrogen Bi-mode which was limited to 100mph on Hydrogen power requiring only short range use, but is nowhere near practical for a 125mph Intercity train which needs to operate up to 1600 miles without being taken out of service for fuelling. Voyagers are particularly unsuitable due to the frequent stopping nature of their duty cycle.

        Comment by Duncan Wilson | April 9, 2023

  2. Voyagers carry 1300 L diesel per coach so you are going to need to store 400kg of hydrogen for equivalent energy capacity assuming efficiency of engine is same? Thats a lot of tankage capacity and a lot of weight and given that placing them underneath the train isn’t yet allowable (RSSB are still working on standards) where would you put them?

    These should have been bi-mode from the start with one coach carrying a transformer so they could operate off the juice for big parts of their journeys. Aint going to happen but next best thing would have been to have bulk ordered more class 8xx off Hitachi but the DfT would rather waste 100’s of millions on the likes of Euston and TRU because they can’t make their minds up.

    As an aside whats even happened to the Aventra hydrogen trains that were going to be built for NE?

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | April 9, 2023 | Reply

    • Consider the success of Greater Anglia’s Class 755 trains, where no passengers find it strange there is a locomotive in the middle.

      I have done a quick calculation and for the 105 trains, there appear to be 55 centre cars. So why not convert them to hydrogen tank cars, which would then give 55 hydrogen trains running on hydrogen versions of the QSK19 engines.

      It should be noted that when they won the franchise, Abellio said they would try out hydrogen trains on the Midland Main Line. It never happened.

      But were they thinking of something extremely radical? Or did Cummins suggest it to Abellio?

      Comment by AnonW | April 9, 2023 | Reply

      • They probably dangled the idea as it was worth points on a franchise bid. Thing is now franchises are terminated there is absolutely no incentive on an operator to do anything more than what the DfT wants. They talk decarbonisation but the harsh reality is the railways are bugger all of nothing in the grander scheme of things with far bigger challenges for the country to get to net zero so i dont expect anything new this side of a general election.

        Oh and would have bought a couple 100 755’s while i was at as that would have allowed far quicker route to decarbonisation than spending a fortune on wiring up more lines and worked with Stadler to provide a battery and hydrogen trial versions.

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | April 9, 2023

  3. Agree with you about the 755s. Stadler have said that some batteries will go in at the first major service, which can’t be far off.

    I’ve spoken to a few drivers of various Stadler trains and trams and they seem to be well liked.

    If I’m right about Stadler and Cummins plotting the rise of the electro-hydrogen freight engine, that gets rid of the case for a lot of electrification anyway.

    Do Cummins And Stadler Have a Cunning Plan?

    Comment by AnonW | April 9, 2023 | Reply

  4. Regarding the rise of the electro-hydrogen freight Locos which currently would have to store compressed to 700 bars. The only serious rail initiative I’m aware of is one by Progress Rail and a concept locomotive solution from Wabtec; both involve the addition of a tender to carry the hydrogen.

    Comment by fammorris | April 9, 2023 | Reply

    • Don’t forget Clean Air Power’s dual-fuel Class 66.

      Clean Air Power Adds Hydrogen To Class 66 Fuel Mix

      I still think the most unusual freight haulage I’ve seen in the UK was a Class 90 and a Class 66 double-heading a long and probably very heavy freight train.

      I’ve never seen this combination of locomotives mentioned elsewhere.

      The picture is shown in this post.

      A Heavy Load From Felixstowe To Manchester

      Comment by AnonW | April 9, 2023 | Reply

      • Originally Class 66 and it’s variants had a control system that was incompatible with the TDM control bus employed by British built AC locos. I find it hard to concede that a Class 90 could control the Class 66 engine without a very expensive conversion package which knowing the freight companies would be highly unlikely. Was it really in a multiple working mode or was the Class 66 being hauled dead in the train?

        Comment by fammorris | April 9, 2023

  5. I’ve no idea, what they were up to, but it really is a version of the ultimate bi-mode.

    Dead in train is one possibility.

    Or it could have been some form of test, either of formation or controls.

    But I’ve never read or seen anything else about this.

    Comment by AnonW | April 9, 2023 | Reply

  6. Also 1 kilo of Hydrogen, even compressed to a liquid, takes up a volume of 14.132 litres. And you will need around 400Kg of Hydrogen per coach to match the performance and range of the Voyagers on diesel. This means you would need a 5652.8 litre fuel tank in each and every coach of a Voyager. There is nowhere to put it. It’s a practical impossibility if you also expect the resulting Hydro-Voyager to carry a meaningful number of passengers. I used to work with liquid Helium cryogenics in the dim and distant past before I joined the railway, and even if you could theoretically use liquid Helium to turn the Hydrogen into slush, and transfer it in that state into the tanks, you still couldn’t fit a tank large enough to be practical. No, converting old trains is not the way to go as demonstrated by Breeze. Especially big, heavy, high speed, long range trains such as Voyagers. A Hydrogen Bi-mode is a realistic prospect, as are short range, light weight Straight Hydrogen Trains, but their performance and range will remain limited.

    Comment by Duncan Wilson | April 10, 2023 | Reply

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