Colas Rail UK and G-Volution partner to decarbonize locomotive operations

Colas Rail UK and G-Volution partner to decarbonize locomotive operations
© Hope Drew & Adelan Ltd

The collaboration involves the integration of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) powered by low-carbon Bio Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Bio-LPG) to supply auxiliary power for locomotives.


In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and foster sustainability in locomotive operations, Colas Rail UK's Freight Business has joined forces with G-Volution Ltd to introduce solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) powered by near net zero carbon emission Bio Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Bio-LPG) for auxiliary load power generation.

The project was initiated in response to the urgent need to decarbonize locomotive operations, which traditionally rely heavily on diesel, a major contributor to carbon emissions. The collaboration with G-Volution involved the installation of a SOFC in a Class 37 locomotive to power auxiliary systems.

Route simulations carried out by the University of Birmingham using a 35kW SOFC showed that a typical Class 37 operation with two locomotives powered by SOFC technology could potentially save an average of 50 tonnes of CO2e emissions per year (equivalent to a 12% reduction). This is accompanied by an estimated 8% reduction in fuel costs, improving the economic and environmental efficiency of locomotive operations.

The use of SOFC technology also brings other benefits, including improved air quality. SOFC produces zero particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, further contributing to a cleaner environment. There is also a significant reduction in noise and engine idling, making locomotive operation quieter and more environmentally friendly.

“Innovation with a focus on decarbonization is essential given the challenge to reduce dependency on fossil fuel. This trial has proven that a lower carbon option is available for auxiliary power generation. It’s still early days for this technology but it’s an excellent start and something that Colas Rail Services have been proud to be a part of,” said Paul Conway, Head of Engineering and Compliance at Colas Rail UK.

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