Hitachi Rail bringing zero-emission trains to the UK

A new agreement between Hitachi Rail and Hyperdrive promises zero-emission trains in the UK, opening the way for battery trains across the country.

Hitachi Rail and Hyperdrive have signed an exclusive agreement to develop battery packs to power zero-emission trains in the UK. The partnership will create a battery hub in the North West of the country.

With a presence in 38 countries, across 3 continents, Hitachi Rail is a fully integrated, global provider of rail solutions. The company’s mission is to contribute to society through the continuous development of superior rail transport solutions. 

Based in Sunderland, Hyperdrive Innovation manufactures lithium-ion battery systems for powering off-highway and material handling vehicles as well as stationary and portable energy storage systems. Hyperdrive wants to enable “the storage and use of the RIGHT energy at the RIGHT time”.

Hyperdrive opened the UK’s leading independent battery pack manufacturing facility, HYVE, in July 2019. This facility can produce up to 30,000 packs per year. This expansion means Hyperdrive is, outside major OEMs, the largest dedicated battery manufacturing facility in the UK.

The exclusive agreement is an important step towards manufacturing batteries in the HYVE facility in Sunderland. Once manufactured, the batteries will then be installed just 20 miles away at Hitachi Rail’s train-building factory in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Almost two thirds (58%) of the UK’s 20,000-mile rail network is not electrified. The two companies aim to accelerate the creation of batteries that can be mass-produced, providing emission-free power, for hundreds of battery trains across the UK. 

This partnership comes at an important time as the government has set ambitious decarbonisation targets. In their analysis, Hitachi Rail estimates the potential market for Hyperdrive and their own battery technology is over 400 trains

Business and Industry Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said of the partnership: 

It’s fantastic to see two innovative companies joining forces to create good quality manufacturing jobs across the North East. An emission-free public transport system is vital if we’re to build a stronger, greener economic recovery that spreads prosperity and opportunity across the UK.”

Battery trains for a green recovery 

Battery trains are a positive step towards a clean future as they produce no greenhouse gases or air pollution. They offer passengers cleaner air in stations, less noise disruption and a carbon-free way to travel. By installing batteries on existing fleets, they can extend the range and allow passengers to reach stations on non-electrified branch lines without having to change train. 

Explaining their importance, Andrew Barr, Group CEO of Hitachi Rail, stated, “battery trains can play a vital role in improving the air we breathe, tackling climate change and providing modern, high performing rail service – all things we know passengers want to see”.

By installing the batteries on the much needed new metro and intercity trains, they will be able to replace diesel fleets in the coming years. Hitachi has identified its fleet of 275 trains as potential early recipients of the batteries for use in the UK.

Furthermore, this new venture will aid the UK’s green recovery. 

The partnership with Hyperdrive creates shovel-ready opportunity for new battery trains to be ordered now. As well as new trains, there is also a window of opportunity to cut carbon and supercharge a green recovery in the North East and across the UK.” 

Barr continued
Hitachi: incubating local technology

Widespread adoption of battery train technology could be a major boost for the industry in the UK. It will create a market for Hyperdrive to increase its manufacturing capability up to 30,000 battery packs per year. On top of this, it will double the number of jobs at its factory in Sunderland.

The development of the UK’s first independent battery pack manufacturing facility has promising outcomes for the transport industry. This facility will drive costs down and for the first time offer domestic production of batteries for rail, automotive, construction and energy sectors.

Sharing his excitement at the new partnership with Hitachi, Chris Pennison, CEO of Hyperdrive, stated: “We’re delighted to bring our expertise and experience as a trusted electrification partner to a new industry, assisting an innovative organisation like Hitachi, as it modernises and decarbonises UK rail networks”.

Hitachi’s agreement with Hyperdrive is an example of a global company investing in one of its key markets and incubating local technology. It will act as a means of sharing skills, resources and knowledge. By creating battery packs that are best in class, the partnership will help position the North East of England as a hub for battery technology.

Supporting the Government’s levelling-up agenda, showing the importance of the agreement, Pennsion continued

“Our partnership with Hitachi will secure major investment and jobs in the North East, reinforcing the UK’s battery supply chain and keeping the country on track to reach net-zero by 2050. To date, only 42% of UK railways are electrified, with British trains using 469 million litres of diesel each year, emitting over 2.4 million tonnes CO2 annually. The partnership underpins the vision that the rail industry can be a major contributor to the UK government’s targets of net zero emissions by 2050 and strengthens the case for home-grown innovation to be at the forefront of the UK’s clean growth strategy”.

An exclusive partnership for impressive companies 

Both Hitachi Rail and Hyperdrive have made impressive steps towards a cleaner future for the transport industry.

Across the world, Hitachi has an extensive battery train experience. In 2007, the company fitted a hybrid test train, known as a Class 43 HST, with batteries and tan over 100,000km. Then, in 2016, Hitachi introduced one of the world’s first regional battery trains in Japan.

Founded in 2012, Hyperdrive has been named in the top 40 of the Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 list as one of the fastest-growing British Tech firms. They have also been awarded the Automotive Award at the Insider Media’s Made in the UK Awards 2019. Not only this, the battery company were also shortlisted for Innovation of the Year in the National Technology Awards.

What is clear, is this exciting partnership will transform the British rail industry. Hitachi and Hyperdrive are on the right tracks towards clean and sustainable rail travel.

Catherine Gray

Catherine Gray is a Senior Writer at CleanTech News, eager to be part of the important discussion around clean technological advances, promoting and celebrating the things that can be achieved. Catherine is particularly interested in how writing can have an impact on people’s lives and hopes to make her own mark in the CleanTech community through championing new innovative technologies. With huge admiration for companies and individuals with the dedication to make positive advances towards a carbon net-zero future and an advocate for sustainably in day to day life, Catherine looks forward to being actively involved in the CleanTech community.